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Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Wake-up: Steelers to start rookie linemen

By Jamison Hensley

CINCINNATI -- I'm on my second and final day of my visit to Bengals training camp. Practice doesn't begin until 3 p.m., which means the AFC North weekly chat will stay with the scheduled 2 p.m. start. There will be plenty to talk about from Browns running back Trent Richardson nursing a sore knee to the Steelers deciding not to trade disgruntled wide receiver Mike Wallace. If that doesn't start your day off right, here's your wake-up call:

BENGALS: Andrew Hawkins is a busy man for the team. He's listed as the No. 2 returner on punts and kickoffs. He's one of the top gunners from last season's top-10 punt coverage team. And he's the No. 1 slot receiver.  "I love it," Hawkins told the team's official website. "I told the coaches when I got here I'd do anything." Hensley's slant: The Bengals aren't expected to carry both Hawkins and Jordan Shipley on the 53-man roster. At this point, Hawkins has the edge because he's more versatile and valuable.

BROWNS: Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer thinks Colt McCoy has to realize that being a backup quarterback is a good job. "While the team was not thrilled about McCoy questioning the 'fairness' of how the coaches dealt with the quarterback, they also understand that this is the first time at any level that he lost a starting job," Pluto wrote. "But McCoy must come to terms that being one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of Texas high school football -- and a star in college with the Longhorns -- doesn't count anymore." Hensley's slant: It's true that McCoy has been a team player up to this point, so you have to give him a pass for expressing his emotions after losing the quarterback competition. McCoy can have a long career as a backup with the right mindset. The Browns have to think his $540,000 salary for this year (compared to Seneca Wallace's $2.4 million salary) is the right price for a backup.

RAVENS: Ravens first-year quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell said quarterback Tyrod Taylor is "growing by leaps and bounds," Caldwell told Comcast SportsNet. "Today, he had a pretty good day out there throwing the ball, and we’ve seen that pretty much every day," Caldwell said. "So, it’s a steady climb for him. The more reps he gets, I think the better he will be. [Taylor is] certainly not perfect, but obviously, he has some things you just can’t teach in terms of his ability to escape and run and make plays outside of the pocket.” Hensley's slant: It's obvious to anyone who has watched Ravens training camp that Taylor has the edge over Curtis Painter to be Joe Flacco's primary backup. Taylor has a stronger arm, is more athletic and has been making better decisions. The Ravens, though, have never needed a backup the past four years because Flacco has yet to miss a game.

STEELERS: The team announced two rookie linemen -- right guard David DeCastro and left tackle Mike Adams -- will start Thursday's preseason opener, but both have yet to win starting jobs for the regular-season opener. DeCastro is starting because right guard Ramon Foster will start at left guard for the injured Willie Colon, and Adams will have to beat out Max Starks when he comes off the Physically Unable to Perform list. Still, the Steelers are impressed the poise of their first two picks in the 2012 draft. "There have been no signs of panic or anything like that," offensive coordinator Todd Haley told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Hensley's slant: It would have been asking a lot for both rookies to have a flawless start to their first training camps. DeCastro and Adams can take big steps forward with strong efforts in these preseason games. There's a good chance both will be in the starting lineup in the opener at Denver.