Audition Time on the Offensive Line

Today's the day to put the pads on, and really see what these rookie offensive linemen can do, says Mike Prisuta.

LATROBE -- Brett Keisel arrived in a "front-end loader." And when he emerged from the cab of the tractor that carried his suitcase in the front bucket of that bright orange monstrosity Keisel was sporting a T-shirt with a likeness of No. 99 in a bow-and-arrow pose and the inscription "Hunt for VII."

Never let it be said that "Da Beard" doesn't know how to make an entrance.

Keisel has become an entertainer as well as a defensive end, a presence, a part of the personality and the pulse of the Steelers.

But he's also maintained perspective.

That became evident when, while holding court in front of the Kubota M70-40 Bad Boy, he got around to talking football as well as fashion and "swathing hay" and "plowing fields" and other former pursuits in his native Wyoming.

Specifically, Keisel was asked about the role the defensive line and linebackers would play in sorting out the offensive line in terms of how and where No. 1 pick David DeCastro and No. 2 pick Mike Adams fit in.

"We should play some," Keisel acknowledged. "I'm interested to see these kids, our first and second picks, see what they're capable of with pads on. All we've seen is what they do with the college uniform on.

"Let's see what they do with the Steeler uniform on."

The first chance at that will occur on Saturday afternoon, when the Steelers strap on the pads for the first time at St. Vincent College.

Mike Tomlin is curious about that, too. But Tomlin is even more eager to see DeCastro and Adams in action against guys wearing Eagles Colts, Bills and Panthers uniforms in August.

That'll go a long way toward deciding how and where DeCastro and Adams fit in come September when the Steelers get to Denver.

"Obviously, a big part of their evaluations, as is everyone's, is what happens in these preseason stadiums," Tomlin stressed.

In the meantime, DeCastro and Adams will have to prove themselves on the practice field. They'll have to earn any preseason opportunities to prove they're starter-worthy by first proving themselves against what guard Willie Colon described as "the best defense in all the land."

That won't be easy against a bunch that gives up nothing, practice reps included, without a struggle.

"You never want to let a rookie beat you, ever," Keisel maintained. "Coach Mitchell (defensive line coach/assistant head coach John) told me that a long time ago, ‘I would never let a rookie block me, ever.' So that's just the mentality you have. You want to come in and show these young guys how we play football and what type of defense we have."

The opportunities at hand for these young guys are obvious, especially for DeCastro.

He's the No. 1 pick and a better guard than Adams is a tackle.

And DeCastro doesn't have Max Starks looming in the PUP-list wings.

Yet when asked about that very opportunity, the one that's beckoning to be taken advantage of, DeCastro declined to go there.

So did Art Rooney II, who introduced DeCastro during a press conference on reporting day.

About all either offered of any consequence was a one-liner delivered by the Steelers' president.

"Contrary to popular belief, we've always tried to have a good offensive line," Rooney said.

The popping of the pads on Saturday will begin to reveal the quality of this latest endeavor.

It's time to find out what type of entrance DeCastro and Adams are capable of making.

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