The Pittsburgh Steelers opened mini-camp today in preparation for the 2012 season. Of course, the big news of the day was expected as Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Wallace did not report. The restricted free agent has still not signed his RFA tender and looks to continue his holdout by missing these five mandatory sessions. Besides the Wallace story, the focus turned to the Steelers first two selections in the 2012 NFL Draft, David DeCastro and Mike Adams, who are making their first appearance in Pittsburgh since the rookie mini-camp due to NFL rules regarding college scheduling.While these two rookies are extremely important to the offense and their progress will go a long way in solidifying the offensive line, another rookie in this same situation is being overlooked. In fact, rookie fourth round pick Alameda Ta’amu, the nose tackle out of the University of Washington, may be called on sooner than either of the offensive linemen.
Some fans may not see it that way considering the pedigree of DeCastro, a top ten talent that somehow fell to the Steelers, but one look at the positional depth may say otherwise. With nose tackle Casey Hampton returning from an ACL injury suffered in the playoff loss to the Broncos, there is no guarantee that he will be ready for the season opener. Yes, the team is optimistic, but injury recovery can be tricky and no one knows for sure.
If Hampton is limited, the nose tackle position should fall to tackle Steve McClendon, who was solid in a back-up role in 2011. Yes, that transition to starter should be relatively seamless, but with the early season heat and humidity the team usually endures, a sound back up with an understanding of the defensive system is a must. Like DeCastro and Adams, Ta’amu has had the playbook and can learn terminology, but that does nothing to help build chemistry inside an already complex defensive unit.
Unlike some fans, the Steelers saw the importance in adding Ta’amu, by trading up in the draft to grab the 6-3, 348-pound nose tackle. He is a massive man, with a wide base and some solid athleticism and should be able to develop into a defensive weapon. It is just unfortunate that his development has been put on hold by a NFL rule that makes little sense.
Note: it has been reported on twitter that the Steelers signed long snapper Matt Katula today. The 29-year old long snapper from Wisconsin has seen time with the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings over his career. In signing him, the team would have to make a corresponding move, although no moves have been officially announced by the organization.
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