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07-19-2012, 06:49 PM
DeCastro, Adams will have hands full
About Alan Robinson
Tribune-Review Sports reporter Alan Robinson can be reached via e-mail or at 888-PIT-More Tribune-Review Tribune-Review

By Alan Robinson

Published: Thursday, July 19, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated 20 hours ago

Doesn’t matter where a player is drafted, how much money he earns, how many All-American teams he made or how many college games he dominated. There’s nothing easy about being an NFL rookie offensive lineman.

“There’s no comfort level, none at all,” said Alan Faneca, the most accomplished offensive guard to play for the Steelers and a player who well remembers what a challenge his rookie season was in 1998. “You’ve been thrown a playbook that’s two or three times bigger than it was in college. You’re going out on the field thinking, not playing.”

You’re lost.

Even the best players struggle with terminology, the playbook’s complexity, the significantly upgraded competition, Faneca said. The same lineman who spent a couple of seasons roughing up college undergraduates becomes overwhelmed going up against defensive linemen with 10 years of experience and a commensurately deep bag of tricks.

Faneca, a nine-time Pro Bowl lineman who retired last year, knows exactly what the Steelers’ top two draft picks, David DeCastro and Mike Adams, will be going through when training camp starts Wednesday in Latrobe.

DeCastro, from Stanford, is being called the best guard to come into the league since … yes, Faneca. Adams, a mountainous pass blocker who often obliterated pass rushers at Ohio State, will get the chance to start at left tackle.

But there’s a reason the Steelers brought back Max Starks, signing the offensive tackle to a one-year contract to compete with Adams. Game speed in the NFL is difficult for rookies, and the blocking assignments can vary greatly from week to week.

“What you get this Wednesday doesn’t look at all what you got last Wednesday,” Faneca said.

The only rookie offensive linemen to start a Steelers opener during the Super Bowl era are Tom Ricketts (1989), Marvel Smith (2000) and Maurkice Pouncey (2010). Faneca and Kendall Simmons (2002) also started as rookies, but not in the opener.

“It’s hard,” Faneca said. “It’s just not the same as college football. My rookie season, I was playing next to Dermontti Dawson, one of the all-time greats, and I’m trying to live up to that playing. But it was a veteran crew, and they imparted knowledge that stuck. After a while, that made it easier.”

The Steelers’ offensive line, a perceived weakness for years, is undergoing an overhaul that began in 2010 with the drafting of Pouncey, a center. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert came aboard last season, and DeCastro and Adams arrived this spring.

But DeCastro and Adams were limited to a three-day minicamp last month, and their first extensive exposure to new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s system won’t begin until next week. It seems likely DeCastro will start the Sept. 9 opener in Denver, but he still must beat out Ramon Foster and Trai Essex.

“It can be a struggle for a rookie,” said Jamie Dukes, an NFL Network analyst and a 10-season lineman in the league. “You don’t know the personnel. You don’t know (Bills defensive lineman) Mario Williams’ moves. You’re blocking several layers deep, and blitz pickup can be an issue.”

The advantage that DeCastro and Adams own over linemen who came into the league only a few seasons ago is that the proliferation of passing-heavy, spread-type offenses is speeding up the learning curve.

“How many rookie linemen start? Fifteen years ago, the answer was none,” said former Dallas Cowboys player personnel vice president Gil Brandt. “But the players we get today from colleges are so much better equipped to play in the NFL. Adams and DeCastro, they pass-blocked more in one year than the player we used to get did during an entire college career.”

In 2007, all four offensive linemen drafted in the first round — Joe Thomas, Levi Brown, Joe Staley and Ben Grubbs — became starters almost immediately.

Dukes said this familiarity with the passing game means “from an academic standpoint, it’s not as big a challenge that wide receiver or quarterback is. You just have to get up to speed.”

For all the challenges of developing brand-new linemen, the Steelers appear to be embracing them more eagerly than the rival Baltimore Ravens. And that might be the biggest difference between franchises with so many similarities and identical 12-4 records last season.

Even if Starks starts, the average age of the Steelers’ offensive line starters — with DeCastro in the lineup — would be 25½. All five projected Ravens starters are older than that, with an average age of nearly 32. And keeping linemen healthy as they age can be a challenge.

“But you’ve got to be up to the task,” Faneca said. “It’s how hard you work, your willingness to go out there and watch the older guys who are trying to help you along and lead you in the right direction.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total M edia. He can be reached at arob inson@tribweb.com.

07-19-2012, 07:06 PM
This was actually already posted in another thread, but it's no big deal. It'll be easier to see here.

07-20-2012, 03:37 AM
good read. i loved Faneca and hated losing him

07-20-2012, 11:45 AM
Welcome to the NFL boys hope you work out cause if you do we will have another ring or two for sure! :tt02:

Fire Arians
07-20-2012, 01:00 PM
i'm 100% confident that decastro will make the lineup.

adams, i'm optimistic on him, but don't expect him to beat starks in his first go. I hope he does, though.

07-20-2012, 02:03 PM
I'm excited to see what these guys can do.

07-20-2012, 03:21 PM
I spent the last few hours at sea. Expected signing news when I got back. get on it

Hawaii 5-0
07-20-2012, 11:17 PM
Mike Adams still first in line to start at Left Tackle

July 20th, 2012

http://triblive.com/csp/mediapool/sites/dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls?STREAMOID=puu1a 1kaj5QkxPzWoHsJO8$daE2N3K4ZzOUsqbU5sYvWpVP0hTYgssT EFPIz2UbxWCsjLu883Ygn4B49Lvm9bPe2QeMKQdVeZmXF$9l$4 uCZ8QDXhaHEp3rvzXRJFdy0KqPHLoMevcTLo3h8xh70Y6N_U_C ryOsw6FTOdKL_jpQ-&CONTENTTYPE=image/jpeg

With the return of Max Starks to the Steelers many are questioning who will be the starting Left Tackle. It still looks though as if there will not be a question to who the starter is. Starks basically answered that question for us in an interview with WDVE. Starks plans to start the preseason on the PUP List. He still wants to start and plans to compete but by the time he can practice it may be to late.

That means that Mike Adams is still first in line to start. That is what he was drafted to do and that was what was expected from him. As a second round pick at the position of left tackle you are expected to contribute to the team.

The Steelers know what they are getting from Starks when he is healthy. Starting him on the PUP list is better for this football team. It gives Mike Adams more first team reps and gives him time to learn the offense. He can gel with the guys around him each and every practice on each and every snap. That is what he needs. Repetition, repetition and more repetition.

With Adams having this oppurtunity to work with the first team he will be able to show what he has got. He will be going up every day against 2 of the best pass rushers in the league. Woodley and Harrison are not going to take it easy on him in practice. The harder they go the more the team will know about Adams heading into the season. If he can block those guys then he can handle an NFL pass rush. There are not to many guys better then those two.

I love the idea of having Starks back on this team for insurance but I have full confidence in Adams. With the Steelers coaching and some discipline this kid has all the makings of a great left tackle. He has the size and skill to succeed. The only thing that can hold him back is himself.

http://bleedblackandgold.com/blog/2012/07/20/mike-adams-still-first-in-line-to-start-at-left-tackle/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BleedBlackAndGold+%28Bleed+Bl ack+and+Gold%29

07-21-2012, 06:28 AM
First things first: when is DeCastro going to sign?

El-Gonzo Jackson
07-21-2012, 08:42 AM
Yeah, I hope Adams gets abused and Heyward stays on him to teach him how to be a pro. If he can stay focused and motivated, he can be great.

07-22-2012, 11:24 AM
John Dudley: Steelers positioned to benefit from investment in offensive line

They're big. They're boring. They'll be totally ignored when pro football's make-believe owners gather next month to assemble their fantasy squads.

There might be no more underrated units in sports than NFL offensive lines, even now, with websites like footballoutsiders.com creating statistics like Power Success to attempt to measure how effectively teams run in short-yardage situations. (A category, by the way, led in 2011 by the Vikings and Seahawks, who each came in at 73 percent.)

All of this is a good icebreaker for any discussion of this season's Steelers, because an argument can be made that their success or failure rides more on their offensive linemen than on any other group of players, including their celebrated wide receivers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Although they re-signed veteran stopgap Max Starks this past week to provide competition at tackle, the Steelers no longer treat their offensive line like a patchwork quilt stitched together with spare parts and worn-out former starters.

They've shopped heavily up front in the past three drafts, taking center Maurkice Pouncey as a first-rounder in 2010, tackle Marcus Gilbert in the second round in 2011 and presumed starters David DeCastro and Mike Adams with their first two picks in April.

If you're keeping track, that's two first-round picks spent on offensive linemen in three seasons after not taking one that early since Kendall Simmons in 2002.

And there are good reasons for that.

One, the Steelers have scrambled for the better part of the past decade -- even in some years when they've made a Super Bowl appearances -- with injuries and a lack of quality depth up front. That's why they signed Flozell Adams off the street two years ago to plug a hole at tackle.

They have a talented line coach in Sean Kugler who spent so much of his first two seasons in emergency mode it was difficult for him to figure out exactly what he had, which, as it turns out, wasn't nearly enough.

So for Kugler, the additions of DeCastro, who is expected to start at guard, and Adams, who will compete for the left tackle job, are like hitting the lottery. Twice.

Another reason, plain and simple, is that a gradual transition away from the power running game means the Steelers' ability to score points depends more heavily than ever on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has been sacked at least 40 times in five of the past six seasons.

With running back Rashard Mendenhall out indefinitely as he recovers from a knee injury and the team deeply invested in receivers Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, the line's ability to learn pass-blocking protections -- which can be far more complex than run schemes -- is vital.

In DeCastro, the Steelers have added a heady, former Stanford guard to insert alongside Pouncey, their heady former Florida center. Together they give the Steelers the most promising interior line combo since Jeff Hartings and Alan Faneca, and the shift of veteran tackle to Willie Colon to left guard further strengthens the unit up the middle.

Gilbert and Adams are expected to be the tackles, giving the Steelers a big, talented and, for a change, young group of starting linemen whose average age could be as young as 251/2 years.

With that youth comes some uncertainty.

DeCastro and Adams will arrive at camp behind, which is a concern. Each missed OTAs because of an NFL rule that prohibits players from participating until their college coursework is complete.

But Kugler said both will run with the starters when camp opens and promised they would have plenty of work waiting for them, adding that, unlike what they might have done in college, "they can't BS their way through it."

If the investment the Steelers have made over the past three seasons pays off, that stink that's hovered over the offensive line should start to drift away very soon.

JOHN DUDLEY can be reached at 870-1677 or john.dudley@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNdudley.