Rookies DeCastro, Adams busy as minicamp begins

Willie Colon couldn’t help himself. When rookies David DeCastro

and Mike Adams walk into the offensive huddle during the opening

practice of minicamp on Tuesday, the veteran left guard decided to

have a little fun at the expense of the new kids.

”It smells like baby milk and pampers in here,” Colon said

just before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called out a play.

Hopefully, not for long.

The Steelers wasted little time putting their top two draft

picks to work during their first drills with the veterans. Both

players split time with the first team after missing three weeks of

organized team activities while finishing their studies.

Offensive line coach Sean Kugler did his best to keep his two

new projects up to speed, calling them daily to go through reps and

relay questions that came up during meetings.

Adams – taken in the second round out of Ohio State – would

often bring his playbook and his iPad wherever he went during his

final days on campus to help fight off boredom.

”To be honest, I’d be in class watching film and stuff like

that,” he said. ”I kind of checked out of school a while ago,

just wanting to be here, getting back with my team.”

While allowing he’s never ”satisfied,” coach Mike Tomlin

wasn’t displeased with what he saw from either player.

”I’m comfortable with where they are and what they were able to

display today,” Tomlin said. ”Obviously they’re working on

limited time. They need to hurry up to catch up.”

At least they’re here. The same can’t be said for wide receiver

Mike Wallace, who has remained in Louisiana during the offseason.

The restricted free agent has yet to sign his first-round tender

though Tomlin remains optimistic Wallace will be in the fold when

camp starts in late July.

”It’s probably short-term misery,” Tomlin said. ”Hopefully

there will be closure at some point and this will be in our

rearview mirror.”

Tomlin won’t have to push Adams to put his college career behind

him while he tries to shed the reputation he received during a

bumpy four years with the Buckeyes. The massive 6-foot-7, 323 pound

Adams was an All-Big Ten selection in 2010 and made the second team

last year despite being limited to eight games because of his role

in the scandal that eventually led to coach Jim Tressel’s

dismissal.

Throw in his failed drug test just before the NFL combine and

Adams arrives in Pittsburgh with plenty of baggage to go with his

potential.

”I think some people question my ability (as a person) and as a

football player,” Adams said. ”As long as I do what I’m told and

do what I’m taught I’ll be alright.”

He won’t have to look far for guidance. The locker room is

littered with leaders, Colon among them.

The affable 29-year-old is now the elder statesmen among the

linemen and is moving from right tackle to left guard. If Adams and

DeCastro both do enough during training camp to be starters, Colon

will have as much experience as the other four starters

combined.

Asked if that makes him feel like a grandfather, Colon smiled

and said, ”I don’t know about grandpa. Maybe like an uncle.”

One who – much like Adams and DeCastro – is finding himself

thrust into a new role. Colon appeared to have a lengthy future at

right tackle after signing a five-year extension last summer.

The elation lasted all of one game. Colon tore his right triceps

in the season-opener against Baltimore and underwent season-ending

surgery. Rookie Marcus Gilbert eventually found a home at the spot,

playing so well he’ll likely be the starter there when the Steelers

open the 2012 season at Denver on Sept. 9.

Gilbert’s quick maturation gave the Steelers the freedom to move

Colon to left guard. It’s unfamiliar territory, but one Colon will

gladly explore.

”I’m comfortable because I have no choice but to be

comfortable,” Colon said. ”Besides, I get to play next to (center

Maurkice Pouncey). I’m excited. We’re like two nasty dogs.

Hopefully DeCastro can jump along and we can be three nasty dogs in

the middle.”

DeCastro, the 24th overall pick out of Stanford, saves his nasty

streak for the field. The soft-spoken 22-year-old spent his final

month in college completing his degree in management, science and

engineering. His final exams consisted of two projects and a test

in his class on linear optimization.

Math, really hard math, in case you’re wondering.

DeCastro talked about the exam with a shoulder shrug, saying

simply ”it wasn’t too bad.” Maybe, but like Adams, DeCastro is

eager to get started on his first real job.

The two rookies do have at least one thing going for them, they

don’t have to unlearn the system used by former Steelers offensive

coordinator Bruce Arians. They come to the team as blank slates and

their responsibilities really haven’t changed despite the jump from

college to one of the NFL’s top teams.

”The playcalls are different, but the schemes are the same,”

DeCastro said.

It’s the stakes that are higher. DeCastro and Adams are part of

a young nucleus that will likely protect Roethlisberger for the

remainder of his career. Gilbert is entering his second season,

Pouncey his third.

They will be given time to grow and the team has never hesitated

to thrust young players into tough spots and let them learn on the

fly.

It’s what happened to Colon, who started 16 games in his third

season while helping the Steelers to the Super Bowl.

”With the Super Bowls we won in the past, it wasn’t on the

strength of the receivers, it was the on the offensive line,” he

said. ”If we can stack some championships up, that will be a

testament to the offensive line coach and the guys in that room.

Hopefully we do well.”

Follow Will Graves on twitter at

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