The Steelers report to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., in less than two weeks. There are plenty of questions surrounding this year's team.We're diving into a few of those as the start of the 2013 preseason draws closer.
The headlines this offseason regarding the Steelers offensive line drew perhaps the first strands of optimism regarding the position unit in a few years. Second-year right guard David DeCastro finished his rookie season healthy, and playing some decent football. Willie Colon was jettisoned due to his high cap number and arguably higher rate of injury. Ramon Foster was signed to an extension and declared the team's starting left guard.
On t he negative side, the only issue casting a pall on that optimism is the fact projected starting right tackle Mike Adams was stabbed and missed most of the team's Organized Training Activities, and all of their minicamp.
That seems bad, but he's expected to be fully recovered when training camp begins Friday, July 26.
Depth along the offensive line is expected to be a point of concern as well.
What starts as a weakness ends as a strength.
Today, with the amount of high draft picks invested in the offensive line, the front five are among the most hyped groups in recent memory. But the development of the low-priced depth behind them will be instrumental for the team, not just this year, but in the coming years.
What goes up, must come down. While the contracts of the starting five - Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, Foster, Adams and DeCastro - are relatively low now, they will get expensive as their rookie contracts expire. It's at that point the team will likely have to hang their helmets on developmental projects like John Malecki, Mike Golic Jr., Nik Embernate and Justin Cheadle on the inside and players like Joe Long on the outside.
Given the Steelers' recent history of injuries, it seems training camp unknowns turn into contributors at some point in the season. It wouldn't be a surprise to see a group of starting offensive linemen well known outside Pittsburgh be backed up by a group of unknown players even to fans inside Pittsburgh.
Development, though, is the key here. If they can get a few of these prospects to pan out, the Steelers could be on the verge of one of its best all-around offensive lines in many years.
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