By Chris Adamski
News of Antonio Brown’s five-year contract extension Friday was just the latest example of the Steelers’ evolution into a more pass-happy, finesse offense.
Don’t tell that to their offensive line. Between the tackles, the Steelers are as physical and in-your-face as ever.
David DeCastro joins Maurkice Pouncey as first-round picks who were widely heralded for their physicality in the trenches. Barring a major surprise, by the time the Sept. 9 season opener in Denver rolls around, DeCastro will be starting at right guard, lining up next to center Pouncey. Willie Colon will flank Pouncey on the other side, moving to left guard after spending recent seasons at tackle.
Pouncey, DeCastro and Colon form arguably one of the most physical trios of guards and a center in the NFL.
“I’ve always been aggressive; I’m not a finesse guy,” Colon said between practices Friday. “I just like to get after it, and being at guard allows you to do that, and being in the interior along with Pounce and Ramon (Foster) or DeCastro, we will have a chance to really show our aggressiveness.
“And we plan on doing it.”
The first practice of training camp open to fans provided a taste of what to expect. Guards on both sides were pulling (Foster, officially, came out with the first-team offense but DeCastro was subbed in at times). Colon showed off the quick feet that caused the coaching staff to feel comfortable in moving him to guard this spring when he pulled and got out in front of running backs.
The 6-3, 315-pound Colon has exclusively appeared in games for the Steelers at right tackle, playing in 51 games since his 2006 rookie campaign. He also was a tackle in college but was projected by most as a guard in the NFL leading into the 2006 draft.
“When you’re at tackle, you have the whole side of the field to work with; when you’re inside everything just comes a lot faster,” Colon said. “Things are kind of right on top of you faster and you have to be able to react a lot quicker. So that’s going to be the biggest adjustment.”
Colon embraces the chance to be aggressive, and the word “nasty” has often been used to describe the 6-5, 316-pound DeCastro and the 6-4, 304-pound Pouncey.
Pouncey’s off-field demeanor is happy-go-lucky; on the field, he’s often the first one to get involved in a skirmish.
DeCastro comes off just as no-nonsense when talking to the media as he did in blocking for Andrew Luck at Stanford. He had been reluctant to acknowledge any areas of emphasis for his first training camp until today: “As long as I’m playing hard and giving it my all and not slacking. That’s what’s key. And I know in the back of my head what (slacking) is.”
Pouncey was a Pro Bowler as a rookie out of Florida two years ago. He said DeCastro is ahead of where Pouncey was at this point of his rookie season.
“Man, he’s a Stanford kid, a lot smarter than the Florida guy,” Pouncey quipped, before adding, “The coaches just want him just playing physical. They don’t care about anything else. There’s going to be mistakes out there in practice, but as long as he’s out there doggin’ other guys, they’ll love that.”
The coaches already do love DeCastro – as do his teammates. Before he even so much as went through a practice in pads as an NFL player (Saturday marks the first day the Steelers will do so), expectations have reached a fever pitch.
“He has a bright future,” right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. “He’s one of the guys you see potential Pro Bowler in him, and Hall of Fame.
NOTES — P Jeremy Kapinos (back) joined TE Heath Miller (ankle) and rookie NT Alameda Ta’amu (foot) as not practicing Friday. Miller and Ta’Amu left Thursday’s late practice early, but neither ailment is viewed as serious. “Just a small setback,” said Miller, who had his ankle lightly wrapped Friday. “Shouldn’t be out too long.” Coach Mike Tomlin said Kapinos would be evaluated and his status updated “in a day or two.” … While Trai Essex again originally took the field with the first team at left tackle, rookie Mike Adams was rotated in with “the 1s” at times. … In street clothes, RB Jonathan Dwyer looks noticeably trimmer than he has in past seasons. When asked what kind of shape Dwyer was in, Tomlin answered “He’s better than he’s been.” … Rookie RB Chris Rainey showed off some of the speed that created a minicamp buzz on a couple of swing passes during practice.