LATROBE, Pa. – The pads are on and highly-touted draft choices David DeCastro and Mike Adams have passed their initial exams at St. Vincent College.
There are many more to come.
But for now DeCastro (a guard from Stanford drafted on the first round) and Adams (an offensive tackle from Ohio State selected on the second round) at least have a better grasp of what's being asked.
"It's still football, obviously a little faster," DeCastro observed. "Everyone's a little bigger, stronger.
"I don't think it's the mental part (that's challenging in the adjustment to professional football), it's the physical part. You gotta learn the technique because you're playing against guys who are the same, if not better than you athletically." "
DeCastro admitted to being a little eager and at the same time a little anxious in advance of the Steelers' first workout in pads in training camp, a session that was conducted last Saturday afternoon. Adams was, too, and, likewise, subsequently relieved to finally get the hitting started.
"Just leading up to it, the nerves, you don't really know what to expect," he said. "You don't know how physical it's going to be, what guys are going to be doing. But after that first period of hitting, stuff like that, you kind of settle down. You get into the rhythm.
"My goal is to come out and get better every day. Coming out today I just want to improve on yesterday, and there's definitely always room for improvement."
DeCastro, at right guard, and Adams, at left tackle, have been getting regular practice repetitions with the first-team offense ever since the Steelers began practicing on Thursday, July 26, the day after they reported.
Both have impressed evaluators and veteran teammates with their grasp of the offense, a concern heading into this training camp because neither was able to participate in the offseason's Organized Team Activities because of NCAA academic restrictions. Their only on-field preparation since draft day had been a rookie orientation the weekend right after the draft and then the team's three-day minicamp in mid-June that concluded the offseason program.
The next major test will come in the preseason games, when both will have to recognize and adjust to on-the-fly changes made by opposing defenses.
In the meantime, DeCastro and Adams must continue to hold up against teammates determined to test their high-profile pedigree.
"Of course," confirmed defensive lineman Cam Heyward, who went through a similar situation as the Steelers' No. 1 pick in 2011. "I think everybody wants to see who you are, what you're about, and you just go from there.
"You have to stay ready. It's not fighting or doing any of that, just competing and playing hard, going out there every day and competing. It's not trying to get low blows on anybody but showing them that you're here to work and help the team out."
Added veteran defensive end Brett Keisel: "You can't ever slow down (as a rookie). You have to work your tail off every day. Nothing's going to be given to you. Even our top picks are going to have to find a way to get in the lineup and make their repetitions count."