PITTSBURGH – David DeCastro has played in the Fiesta, Orange and Sun bowls, and his Stanford team finished first or second in its conference each of the last three seasons, but DeCastro never received the kind of attention he did yesterday when the Steelers’ first-round pick showed up for June minicamp.
“Never,” said the rookie right guard. “It’s kind of crazy.”
DeCastro played right guard with the second team, but he and fellow rookie Mike Adams, a left tackle, received a number of reps with the first team along with Marcus Gilbert, Willie Colon and Maurkice Pouncey at each practice Tuesday.
Most of those reps went well, except early in the day when Adams was beaten off the snap by his old college teammate Cameron Heyward and was then scolded by coaches for quitting on the play.
“I messed up one play, but otherwise I think I did OK,” said Adams.
“They did an awesome job,” said Pouncey. “For missing all the OTAs and coming in adjusting like that, knowing all the plays, not messing up at all, they did well today.”
They were able to do so because of long-distance coaching sessions with line coach Sean Kugler. The two rookies left town with their playbooks after rookie minicamp, and because the NFL doesn’t allow rookies to practice with their team until their incoming college class graduates, DeCastro and Adams had to learn the offense over the phone.
“Coach Koogs definitely did a great job keeping me and Dave here informed,” Adams said as DeCastro, his next-door-neighbor in the locker room, spoke with another mob of reporters.
“It definitely was a big help, so I wasn’t behind too much,” Adams said.
“It’s obviously a different way of learning,” said DeCastro. “There are obviously some things in the playbook that are hard to translate to the field, but I thought mentally I understood the offense pretty well. I’ll be fine.”
Did anything impress DeCastro on his first real day with NFL veterans?
“It’s just football,” he said, clearly weary of the long line of questions.
“I don’t know. It wasn’t really that impressive. I’m just playing football. No one’s really going all that hard without pads on, so it was hard to tell. I’m sure it’ll be different at training camp.”
At training camp, according to coach Mike Tomlin, more will be made of the unit with which the rookies are playing.
“It’ll be a process,” Tomlin said. “We’re going to do things to put them in situations to see how they respond.
“I wouldn’t read into this, particularly football in shorts. We’re going to put them in situations against some good people just for exposure and to learn more about them. That’s down the line when you start reading into what group they’re taking snaps with. That’s going to be a Latrobe type of thing.”
NOTES – WR Mike Wallace is holding out of minicamp in the hope it will help he and the Steelers reach an agreement on a long-term contract. ... NT Casey Hampton and RB Rashard Mendenhall worked in sweats with the training staff on the sidelines. ... OLB Jason Worilds (wrist), OLB James Harrison (knee) and WR Connor Dixon (foot) were out with injuries. ... On the sidelines in their jerseys with minor injuries were and CB Curtis Brown and ILB Stevenson Sylvester.