The pads go on at Steelers' training camp

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Maurkice Pouncey knows all about first impressions, especially impressive ones.

As a No. 1 draft choice in 2010, Pouncey's first day in pads at training camp was an eye-opening experience for all who witnessed his debut.

All, that is, except for defensive end Brett Keisel, who said he already knew what to expect from Pouncey before the Steelers arrived at training camp.

"I felt that way about Pouncey when we were in OTAs," Keisel said. "His explosiveness, his leverage, his technique -- a lot of those things are hard to coach. He came in doing those right away. He came in ready to go."

Today, much the same attention will be paid to the top two draft choices -- guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams.

After two days of light practices without pads, the Steelers will don full equipment for the first time and test the two prized rookies who were drafted to bolster an inconsistent offensive line and protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

DeCastro, in particular, will receive the bulk of the attention, primarily because he comes to training camp with a skill set and reputation similar to Pouncey -- tough, athletic, relentless, nasty.

"I know David's going to have a lot on his plate [today]," Pouncey said. "Everyone will be watching -- the media, the fans, family members, the coaches. He has a big eye on him."

"All eyes are going to be on him," said tackle Marcus Gilbert, a No. 2 draft choice in '11. "He's a first-round pick. He has to live up to his expectations. We brought him here for a reason, and he just has to show the coaches and everyone why they drafted him that high."

And what do the coaches want to see from their No. 1 draft choice?

"Him just playing physical," Pouncey said. "They don't care about anything else. There's going to be mistakes at practice, but if he's out there dogging other guys, they'll love that."

That is DeCastro's calling card. Rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu, who played against DeCastro at the University of Washington, said he never has seen a college lineman who stayed on his block and played through the whistle like the 6-foot-5, 315-pounder from Stanford.

DeCastro has been compared to Alan Faneca, a nine-time Pro Bowl guard who was the Steelers' No. 1 draft choice in 1998. But he has a chance to be just like Pouncey, who needed only one preseason game to work his way into the starting lineup. Pouncey was the first rookie to start a season opener since Mike Tomlin became coach in '07.

"That's what's on you," DeCastro said Friday between practices without pads. "You have all the pressure and everyone watching you. All eyes are on you. You have to perform."

And what does DeCastro think he has to show the coaches immediately?

"That I can play the game, that I can hang with the best," said DeCastro, the 24th overall selection in the draft. "It's hard to show anything or earn a spot without playing in pads."

And it starts today.

Tomlin said he always is excited to practice in pads, but downplayed the significance of the moment and declined to refer to it as the official beginning of training camp.

"You can point to the beginning whenever you want," Tomlin said.

"The reality is, we're not into making quick decisions. Our goal is to put them in as many situations over an extended period of time to get legitimate information."

Perhaps, but there is no mistaking the anticipation of seeing DeCastro and Adams in pads.

Right now, both rookies are working with the second unit -- DeCastro at right guard, Adams at left tackle. It will be only a short amount of time before DeCastro moves up and replaces Ramon Foster as the starting right guard.

Adams might have a little longer wait, especially after the Steelers re-signed Max Starks, who started 12 games at left tackle in 2011.

"Whenever you put the pads on, you want to show you can play real football," said Adams, who grew up in Farrell and played at Ohio State. "We're out here in shorts and stuff, and the game is not played in shorts. You want to show you can actually play the game."

They get their chance today.

NOTES -- Jason Worilds, the backup at both outside linebacker positions, is expected to be out two to four weeks because of a left wrist injury. Worilds is one of six players on the physically-unable-to-perform list and cannot practice until he is removed from the list. ... Tight end Heath Miller (ankle), punter Jeremy Kapinos (back) and Ta'amu (foot) did not practice. ... The afternoon practice today, slated for 2:55 p.m., is open to the public. ... Tomlin, when asked about the condition of running back Jonathan Dwyer, who hasn't always reported to camp in top shape: "He's better than he's been."

Steelers

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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