The Pittsburgh Steelers have issued an early challenge to the newest members of their offensive line.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced Tuesday that right guard David DeCastro and left tackle Mike Adams -- the team's two top draft picks in April -- will start in Thursday night's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
This despite growing pains for both players, particularly DeCastro, the 24th overall pick who's had a slow start in training camp.
"They've had good moments and some not-so-good moments," Tomlin said, via The Associated Press. "That is the process that is team development and individual development. But both guys have worked extremely hard, both guys finish and they're smart young men. We'll see more about them, and of course we'll know more about them by Thursday night."
If DeCastro and Adams take, the Steelers will have four players on their line with three years of NFL experience or less. Left guard Willie Colon is the senior member at 29.
"Those are my guys," said Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback whom Pittsburgh wants to keep upright this season. "I think we've got a great group of guys who are playing great right now. I think they're as excited as anybody to get out and bang against other competition."
The Steelers have a fine track record of sustained relevance achieved through the draft, rather than free agency. Even so, the team is taking a calculated risk by leaning on two greenhorns who haven't necessarily proved they're ready for the big show.