DeCastro Grabs Steelers' RG Job

The Steelers yesterday named David DeCastro their starting right guard, and also had some information regarding Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert and Max Starks.

LATROBE – It was a shaky start for the Steelers' offensive line in its preseason opener Thursday night, but the unit's boss, Sean Kugler, was beaming after Saturday's practice for several reasons:

* For one, he named first-round pick David DeCastro his starting right guard.

* Two, Willie Colon was back kicking butt and taking names at left guard.

* And three, Max Starks is getting closer to returning in time to start at left tackle in the season opener.

All in all not a bad day for Kugler, in spite of the fact his unit gave up 7 sacks and rushed for a mediocre 3.4 yards per carry against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Of course, the Eagles did lead the league with 50 sacks last season out of their wide-9 alignment, but Kugler wouldn't use the unique look as an excuse.

"No, it's not complex," Kugler said. "A couple of our tackles struggled with the speed rush off the edge. When you're going against a 3-4 two-gap all camp, when they're right on your body and all of the sudden they're widened out, it is a change. But it's not an excuse. They've got to do the job and we didn't do the job on the edge on several occasions. That's something that we need to correct, but it was good exposure for us to see that."

Speaking of exposure, DeCastro played every snap of the first half at right guard. He had been running second team behind Ramon Foster, but Foster played left guard in the game in place of the injured Colon. So DeCastro stepped in at right guard, and probably won't step out for a decade.

"Yeah, DeCastro's the starting right guard," Kugler said. "He did a hell of a job his first game out. He's getting better and better every day. We knew that. He missed all of OTAs and the first couple of days of shorts. I don't think he's a shorts player anyway.

"He was a little rusty and he's gotten better every single day here at camp. (He has) unbelievable study habits, doesn't make mistakes, and plays physical. We're pleased with him and his progression every day. He's only going to get better and better."

On the Steelers' first offensive snap, DeCastro and center Maurkice Pouncey jumped out in front of a screen pass to Isaac Redman that gained only 5 yards, but it provided a glimpse into the Steelers' plans with those mobile linemen.

"He's a talented puller," Kugler said of DeCastro. "With our scheme we're looking at all those things right now, and when we get to our pulling schemes he's a guy that's going to figure nicely. He and Willie both fit that scheme very nicely."

DeCastro, always the lowest with his pads, also handled bull rushes well in Philadelphia, and on Jonathan Dwyer's 33-yard run DeCastro was the man blowing open the hole inside.

"Everybody learns their lessons and tries to get better," Kugler said. "Just like Mike Adams. He learned some lessons on some sets against speed rushers and hopefully he'll learn from that. And he did some nice things in the run game when he was in there, too, so I wasn't discouraged by Mike's performance. Those are things that are easily correctible for him. He's going to have to work at it to do it, but I think he will. We need to get him back out here so he can."

Adams gave up a pair of sacks and left the game after he was kicked in the knee on his next-to-last snap. Adams believes he'll be back within two weeks, but coach Mike Tomlin said "I don't want to frame it at this point. We'll go day to day. When he's ready to go we'll put him back out there."

To replace Adams at left tackle on Saturday, Kugler moved Marcus Gilbert over from right tackle, something Kugler had said in the spring he would not do in the middle of training camp.

"It's out of necessity," Kugler said. "We've got two tackles down right now so we've got to get him some work. It ain't the long-term deal, but we've got to prepare a guy in case something like that were to happen in the season. We're very short on tackles so he's getting some work there."

Starks tore an ACL in the playoff game at Denver last season, and is still on the PUP list. But he's been working on the side with the training staff during practices and Kugler is optimistic Starks can return by the opener and compete for the left tackle position.

"He's working his ass off," was all Kugler would say for the record. And then he smiled once more.


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