PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 19: #53 Maurkice Pouncey reacts during the game against the New York Jets at Heinz Field on December 19 2010 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)
Many have checked in with Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey recently, and most noted Pouncey's statement he's full recovered from off-season ankle surgery. While it's not fair to suggest Pouncey's ankle is entering into "Fred Taylor's Groin" territory as the most injured anatomical piece of any NFL player, it was hurt enough last season Pouncey wasn't as effective as he was in his rookie campaign.
Fact is, though, Pouncey will return to the field at 100 percent for the first time since he was a rookie. With a reload among his battery mates, just how much of the upcoming 2012 season rests on Pouncey's broad shoulders?
Questions You'll Hear:
Is rookie OT Mike Adams a left or a right tackle?
That question isn't usually answered in a comparison. If you're athletic, long and have good hand placement, they're going to work you on the left side. If you're a grinder, have a nasty streak and can move guys around, but don't have that high-level athleticism, you're a right tackle.
Adams is going to get every look possible at left tackle, but it isn't likely, right now, the team will alter plans to move away from second-year man Marcus Gilbert. A fellow second-round pick, Gilbert did a decent job at right tackle last season, and the team said they're going to move him to left this year. Odds are, they'll stick with that plan while Adams gets some work in practice. Keep in mind, Gilbert would not have started last season without the injury to Willie Colon in Week 1.
Is this the end of Max Starks?
With Starks' injury in the Steelers playoff loss at Denver, and the selection of Adams, it isn't likely he'll be added to the training camp roster (to put it mildly). As has been the story the entire offseason, the contract situation of WR Mike Wallace is the big unknown, and in this case, it would be a determining factor in the amount of cap space the team will have to sign players during or around camp.
Veteran OL Trai Essex was signed to provide experience at multiple positions, and the same argument could be made in bringing Starks back, provided he can pass a physical. Colon has missed pretty much all of the last two years with injury, so Starks will likely stay on standby in the event one of those infamous Steelers offensive linemen injuries crop up. Colon has been absent for so long, it's left some in the national media forgetting he was the starting RT in both 2010 and 2011 before the injuries occurred.
Where will DeCastro play?
I feel odds are strong...to quite strong...rookie OG David DeCastro will win one of the two starting guard positions. Schematically, playing either left or right guard really depends on the desire of the offense. Since most humans are right-handed, a guard with quickness and athleticism (read: Faneca, Alan) will play left because going from left to right is more natural. Your "pulling" guard, then, would be on the left side. That doesn't mean your right guard can't and doesn't pull (although sometimes it can). I don't know whether DeCastro is right or left handed, but the offensive scheme they used at Stanford had him pulling right to left from his right guard position quite a bit.
If he's more natural at right guard, logic would dictate that's where they'd use him. Plus, I see OG Doug Legursky as the better overall guard between he and Ramon Foster, or, at the very least, the more versatile. While Legursky has played left and right guard, he played left guard often last year in replacement of Chris Kemoeatu for a variety of physical and mental ailments.
DeCastro will probably play right guard simply because that's where he's going to be the most comfortable.
What happens with Jonathan Scott?
SteelerNation's favorite scapegoat...Mr. Scott will probably be, to start, the first back-up at left tackle, maybe even both left and right tackle. Tomlin spoke well of him after a spot start in Week 16 against St. Louis. Gilbert found the pine after a "less than professional" week of practice leading up to that game. Scott's $2 million and change cap hit may not be the most desirable for a back-up tackle, but with the amount of injuries the Steelers offensive line has taken over the last few years, they can't be too careful.
Point to Remember in 2012
Willie Colon was one of the better right tackles in football in 2009. He was on his way to becoming consistently one of the best in the game. An Achilles rupture and a triceps tear have bumped him to the back of the line, but do you realize, if he is able to come back to form (certainly not impossible), the Steelers will have a healthy Colon and Pouncey (All Pro when healthy) joining the best guard prospect in the last decade (DeCastro), along with a young tackle who played well as a rookie (Gilbert) and an experienced and athletic run-blocking guard (Legursky).
No positional unit in the NFL improved more through the draft and in the offseason than the Steelers' offensive line has.