May 4, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers second round draft pick offensive linemen Mike Adams (front bottom) participates in drills during rookie minicamp and orientation. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
While new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley will steal most of the training camp headlines, offensive line coach Sean Kugler is the one standing between the media crosshairs this season.
With an overhaul of one of the more depleted offensive line units in the NFL, Kugler enters this season coaching a group that will likely have three players either new to the team or new to the position, and big expectations about their ability to meld together.
The surest linemen of the group, C Maurkice Pouncey, will enter training camp healthy from all the injuries that nagged him in 2011, causing him to miss multiple games, thus damaging the unit's continuity (the Steelers started three players at center last season, Pouncey, Doug Legursky and Trai Essex).
But Pouncey will have two new guys to his left and right. Rookie first-round pick David DeCastro will likely be the team's starting right guard, and Willie Colon, a right tackle who's played part of one game in the last two years, will move to left guard.
Kugler spoke on Colon's ability to handle the transition after the Steelers' OTA session Wednesday.
"He's got excellent strength. He's got good pulling potential that you really can't utilize at tackle, that you can really utilize at guard. The way that we run our offense he would be a perfect fit right there."
While neither DeCastro nor second-round pick Mike Adams have attended an OTA session due to NFL rules preventing players from joining their team until their college class graduates (even if that player has, you know, graduated), Kugler noted Adams will move into left tackle when he arrives. OT Marcus Gilbert, who was slated to move from right to left before the draft, will move back to right, a position he played last season when Colon went down with a triceps injury in Week 1.
"The best guys are going to play at their set positions. It's not going to be a rotational thing or anything like that. I would hate to have to say to Marcus Gilbert halfway through training camp 'oh, by the way -- move to left.' "
That's an interesting way to put it, considering the Steelers had approximately 680 offensive line combinations last season. It could be a strength, though, considering how random injuries can occur. Players like Essex (has played all five offensive line positions at various points in his time with the Steelers), Legurksy (three positions) and Ramon Foster (both guard positions) can bolster the line enough where Kugler can really make up his mind and stick with it, while being prepared for the inevitable injuries that come with playing in the NFL.