Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE
The Youth of Steeler Nation must stand up and be recognized, even if the various combinations of young players aren't the ones the team expected to be playing this season.
It wouldn't dared to be discussed in August.
Highly touted rookie David DeCastro making his first career start with less experience than afterthought seventh round pick Kelvin Beachum; it wouldn't have shocked many back then to predict the Steelers having two rookies starting on the right side of the offensive line by Week 14.
No one would have bet on those two being the combination.
Equally, it wasn't a stretch at all to suggest Cortez Allen would have been a starting cornerback for the Steelers in 2012. But very few would have said it would be opposite Keenan Lewis, his battery mate in a competitive fight for the starting job opposite Ike Taylor. But no one would have said the starting cornerback tandem in Week 15 would have been Lewis and either Curtis Brown or Josh Victorian - another in a seemingly long line of 7th round picks and undrafted free agents to see significant time this season.
Mike Adams is out, moving Beachum to the starting role. Allen is out, the second starting cornerback to go down with injury in the last three weeks. Ramon Foster, who was to be replaced by DeCastro after the draft, moves to left guard (replacing injured Willie Colon) so the Youth of Steeler Nation can take over. Even if this isn't how it was drawn up.
However it gets sliced, this team was supposed to be young at cornerback and along its offensive line. The pairings may be a bit odd, but this is how the Steelers must roll in Week 15 - maybe even beyond.
Victorian and even fellow undrafted free agent Robert Golden will be locked on the outstanding receivers of the Cowboys at various points today. DeCastro and Beachum will likely be asked at some point to combo block Cowboys' outside linebacker Anthony Spencer - who's having a career year. Foster and Beachum must find whatever it is that Colon and Adams were doing that led the Steelers to run for 4.8 yards a carry when they started. They must also stop a disturbing trend showing a 3.1 yards per carry average when those two do not start.
The younger players were brought in for the future, but their present ability will be what determines whether the Steelers win this game, and even whether they advance to the playoffs for a third consecutive year.