The Steelers first-round pick David DeCastro and second-rounder Mike Adams will start at right guard and left tackle, respectively, against the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night, coach Mike Tomlin confirmed late Tuesday morning.
The designations come with something of an asterisk -- injuries to tackle Max Starks and guard Willie Colon made the rookie starts possible. But that shouldn't be seen as an indication that neither has a legitimate shot to start when the real games start Sept. 9 at Denver.
"Both guys have worked extremely hard," Tomlin said. "Like with the (group of inexperienced) receivers, they've had good moments and some not-so-good moments. That is the process that is team development and individual development. But both guys work extremely hard, both guys finish, they're smart young men. We'll see more about them, and of course we'll know more about them Thursday night."
For precedent on the Steelers starting a rookie on the offensive line, you have to go all the way back to... 2010. Center Maurkice Pouncey was a first-round pick and easily took the starting job away from Justin Hartwig.
DeCastro's pedigree had many assuming that he could follow a similar track in unseating Ramon Foster at guard. On the practice field, DeCastro has not been as impressive as Pouncey was two years ago -- DeCastro himself has acknowledged he's been surprised by the physicality of NFL players.
But Tomlin suggested some revisionist history exists with Pouncey in 2010 and that DeCastro and Adams aren't far behind where he was at this point. Tomlin noted that Pouncey was not named the starter until before the third preseason game in 2010.
"I don't know that Maurkice was at (an advanced) level at this juncture," Tomlin said. "(DeCastro and Adams) are probably in a similar state that he was in. The reality is, what happens out here in practice is one thing; what Maurkice showed us in the stadium was something that convinced us that he was ready to do the job. So these guys have a significant opportunity on Thursday night."
Colon's ankle injury has moved Foster to left guard, opening up the spot for DeCastro. Adams has moved past veteran Trai Essex on the depth chart, with Starks still on the PUP list as he recovers from a torn ACL.