Steelers' hidden treasure: Offensive line

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

No one can say the Pittsburgh Steelers ignored the offensive line in the past three drafts. The Steelers selected center Maurkice Pouncey in the first round in 2010 and tackle Marcus Gilbert in the second round in 2011. Then, for the first time since 1968, Pittsburgh drafted offensive linemen in the first two rounds, taking guard David DeCastro (first round) and tackle Mike Adams (second round). This is the year when the Steelers cash in on their investment.

The Steelers' line has long been considered a weakness of the offense. No quarterback has been sacked more than Ben Roethlisberger since 2006. If these young linemen live up to expectations, the offensive line could become a strength. Pouncey is a two-time Pro Bowl center, and Gilbert improved throughout the season at right tackle. Willie Colon should make an easy transition from right tackle to left guard as long as he stays healthy.

The key to the offensive line going to that next level is the development of the rookies. DeCastro was the consensus top guard in the draft and should be a fixture at right guard for the foreseeable future. There are more doubts about Adams, who is penciled in to protect Roethlisberger's blind side. His strength is considered a concern after he managed 19 reps in the 225-pound bench press at the combine, a low number for an offensive lineman. If Adams isn't ready to start immediately, the Steelers could bring back Max Starks, as they did last season.