Steelers Practice Report (7-27)

Jim Wexell has the complete rundown of the first open practice of the season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

LATROBE – There comes a time in every phenom's first training camp when one can look on the practice field and say: It's time.

That time came for Steelers first-round pick David DeCastro in the middle of the first public practice of the season – and DeCastro wasn't even on the field.

Willie Colon, the Steelers' left guard – who's attempting to make the transition from right tackle – was called upon Friday afternoon to get out in front of a screen pass to running back Baron Batch.

It was a one-man screen, but Colon, the one man, was having a hard time getting out in front of the pass-catcher. Colon's a big man, and on this play his shorts began to fall down. Colon appeared to spin his wheels in futility as the shorts continued to slide. And then Colon fell flat on his face.

Granted, embarrassing plays occur to the best of them, and changing positions is never as simple as we in the media want to make them out to be. But it appears that Colon might be too big to be a pulling guard.

Of course, both guards don't have to pull, but the right guard, Ramon Foster, isn't any quicker, and – while taller – Foster is just as rotund as Colon. And that means neither of them are going to remind anyone of, well, DeCastro.

A close look at DeCastro running right guard with the second team a few plays later revealed a lineman who gets so much lower than anyone else in his three-point stance.

On one of the few plays I could afford to isolate on DeCastro, the rookie sprung from his squat to drive defensive tackle Jake Stoller five yards inside, and John Clay cut back through the wide-open hole for a huge gain.

The run blocking, particularly the technical aspect of it, was sublime. But anyone who watched DeCastro play in college knows that pulling is the strongest part of his game, and with Colon and Foster at the guard spots, that could be the weakest part of the Steelers' game.

So change is inevitable. We all knew that. But yesterday's sequence might be akin to the moment the Steelers watched Maurkice Pouncey in preseason action for the first time two years ago. The time has come. Whether the coaches want to string it out is up to them.

SENSE OF URGENCY

Even though the Steelers practiced in helmets, shells and shorts once again, the presence of fans – albeit a small crowd at St. Vincent – put a sense of urgency into the proceedings. The Steelers even got a hand when they jogged to another field for scrimmage. The crowd then showed its appreciation to rookie punter Drew Butler for a couple rockets he shot down the field. The greatest response went to rookie receiver Marquis Maze, who had to turn 180 degrees and dive to catch a low back-shoulder fade from Charlie Batch.

INJURIES

Heath Miller (ankle) and Alameda Ta'amu (foot) missed another practice with their minor injuries. Punter Jeremy Kapinos experienced back discomfort and coach Mike Tomlin said he'll have an update on him in "a day or two."

QUICK HITTERS

* Cortez Allen dropped an interception of a Byron Leftwich pass. What would've been the first pick of camp went right through Allen's hands.

* Baron Batch stood out by making two defenders miss after taking a swing pass in the open field.

* Is 5-foot-11 inside linebacker Sean Spence too small? Well, he broke up a Ben Roethlisberger pass to 6-8 tight end Leonard Pope.

* The observation that DeCastro gets lower than every lineman on the field brought to mind how Russ Grimm used to explain Casey Hampton's success. Grimm wouldn't say a word, just held his hand knee high, a foot or so off the ground. His point was clear.

QUESTIONS FROM THE MOB

* Are you excited to get the pads on Saturday? "I'm always excited to get the pads on, as I'm sure the guys are," Tomlin said.

* Is Jonathan Dwyer in the shape you want him to be in? "He's better than he's been," Tomlin said.

* How does Todd Haley run practice differently? How are things different under him? "It's not. I set the practice schedule," Tomlin said.


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