As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for their first preseason game Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, they will do so without two players with high expectations for 2012. Yesterday, head coach Mike Tomlin announced that guard Willie Colon and defensive end Cameron Heyward were ruled out for the game due to injury. These two, will join the five players remaining on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, as player who will definitely not suit up against the Eagles.
During Tomlin’s tenure, it has not been uncommon for rookie offensive linemen to start regular season games, with both Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert seizing opportunities early in their career. However, neither started the opening game of the preseason.
With Colon out, the Steelers will move Ramon Foster to left guard, and inset first-round selection David DeCastro at right guard. By all reports, DeCastro has had an up-and-down camp to this part, but the number 24 selection in Aprils NFL Draft looks to be a long time starter in the league.
With last year’s start Max Starks still on the shelf recovering from an ACL injury, second round pick Mike Adams from Ohio State seems to have an early advantage in his competition with Trai Essex at left tackle. At this point, the talented but (off field) incident plagued rookie looks like a steal for the Steelers, who snatched the 6-3, 330-pound athletic lineman late in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
With these two rookies in the starting line up, they should definitely see more action than the one or two series that Tomlin is seeking from the first-team units. Experience against live competition at this stage of the season could pay huge dividends down the road for the offense and protecting franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Tomlin also announced that fifth round selection Chris Rainey will open the game as the primary return specialist, before giving way to another player creating a training camp buzz, undrafted rookie free agent Marquis Maze or futures free agent David Gilreath.
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