Well, at least they made it into Game 5 intact.

They won't make it clean into Game 6.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line will assuredly be without starting RT Marcus Gilbert and possibly without starting center Maurkice Pouncey in Cincinnati this Sunday evening, snapping their streak of five straight games with the same starting offensive line personnel.

"The New York Giants, both times when they won the Super Bowl, their guys played together like sixty-three straight games without an injury," said left tackle Max Starks. "I think our record right now is five."

That's not to stay this season's offensive line had been injury free, of course, with top draft pick David Decastro suffering multiple knee injuries in Pittsburgh's third preseason game. Gilbert had also missed significant time in the Steelers first game of the year in Denver, forcing 2nd Round pick Mike Adams into the lineup.

But when Gilbert fell into Pouncey on the team's first offensive play in Tennessee last week, the flashbacks to 2011's 10-different-starting-offensive-line-combination-season began. Backup Doug Legursky finished the game at center, and Gilbert lasted about 15 more snaps before he would leave for Adams again.

"Maybe we need to put some lucky charms in the [locker] room or something," said left guard Willie Colon.

To this point in 2012, the team made it through their first 5 weeks with the same group of starters up front: Starks, Colon, Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and Gilbert left to right.

With Gilbert's injury looking like a fairly long-term setback, (see colleague Mark Kaboly's piece here: http://triblive.com/sports/2793332-85/gilbert-injury-miss-steelers-ankle-months-loss-marcus-mike-suffered#axzz29aH35YWZ), 2nd Round draft pick Mike Adams is set to become a starter. Is he ready?

"He's got no choice," said Colon, who manned RT for the team from 2007-2009, and parts of three other seasons. "That's the great thing about the NFL, ready or not when your number is called you've got to go."

Starks, who has been overseeing Adams' development since the preseason, said "He's had plenty of time in this offense and he's a very smart, very tenacious young guy. I like the way he plays. This is a good starting test for him as a starter to come out, play a really good defensive front in the Cincinnati Bengals. No better coming out party than to do it in primetime television, Sunday Night, with everybody watching. I think he's mentally prepared and ready for this."

It won't be an easy entry to the lineup for Adams in terms of pass protection. The Bengals are 2nd in the NFL with 20 team sacks. Upcoming opponents Washington and the New York Giants have reputable pass rushers with Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Pierre-Paul, among others.

Said Starks, "Definitely, and when you look at it, the next couple weeks none of them are cakewalks. That's a reason why you have a draft every year, trying to upgrade. That's the reason tackles are such a premium because there's always a new, young, fast guy that's ready to insert himself into a defense and become the next premiere pass rusher."

Cincinnati has done their sack damage with an assortment of defensive linemen combining for 15 of their 20 total.

Starks laid out the matchups between the Steelers offensive line and the Bengals defensive line, saying "You look at this group, this group has experience together. The youngest guy on that line is three years and that's a Pro Bowler in Geno Atkins so when you look at that you know they have a very talented, very veteran group. We'll have our work cut out for us. Mike will be going against Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers. Ramon and Doug will have to deal with Domata Peko and Geno Atkins. And then I'll have Michael Johnson, AKA 'Brontosaurus.' You're looking at 6'5, 6'6, and 6'7 defensive ends, very long and they cause disruptions because of their length and their range, to be able to reach over tackles and grab the quarterback or at least disrupt him enough to redirect him to another guy that's rushing. So it's going to be a good challenge for us."

With Adams checking in at 6'7, 323 lbs, and Starks listed at 6'8, 345 lbs., they are no small dinosaurs either. That had Starks checking his Jurrasic knowledge.

"Not that we're not kinda tall. We're not brontosauruses, I think of us as T-Rex with longer arms. Or the one from 'Jurrasic Park,' more dangerous than T-Rex, made T-Rex look small. Cephalosaurus or something like that? The really big one. Anyway, I'm on TribLive trying to figure out what kind of dinosaur it is."

'Spinosaurus,' Max. But Adams has to earn that nickname on the field, first.

Posted in Pittsburgh Steelers

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