PITTSBURGH (AP) — Kelvin Beachum and David DeCastro were separated by 224 picks — and an avalanche of expectations — in last April's NFL Draft.
The Steelers considered DeCastro a steal with the 24th overall selection, a plug-and-play talent they could pencil in at right guard for the next decade. Beachum almost wasn't taken at all, a seventh-round flier who arrived in Pittsburgh as the fourth (and last) option at offensive tackle.
On Sunday, with the Steelers (7-6) clinging to their playoff lives in Dallas, the sure thing and the project will line up next to each other on the right side of the line.
And the weird thing is, Beachum will be the seasoned one.
The soft-spoken 23-year-old will make his third straight start against the Cowboys while DeCastro will make his regular-season debut after suffering a right knee injury in August that nearly cost him his rookie year.
If anything, Beachum's steady play has helped quell any butterflies DeCastro may have as his first start looms.
"Seeing how well (Kelvin) has fit in certainly gives me more confidence as well," DeCastro said. "I've waited a long time for this game, but that's life. Adversity comes along, but how well you can deal with it is the key to success. And I think I've dealt with it pretty well so far."
So has Beachum, who spent four years playing left tackle at SMU but figured there was no chance he'd hear his name called during the draft. He was so certain he would have to take his chances as a rookie free agent Beachum went to a family reunion on the draft's final day.
Driving back to campus, Beachum's phone buzzed and told him to hurry home. A short time later Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert called and urged Beachum to get packing after Pittsburgh took him with the team's final pick, No. 248 overall.
Eight months later, the 6-foot-3, 306-pound kid with the boyish face will line up in Cowboys Stadium — about 90 minutes north of his hometown of Mexia, Texas — and see Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Pretty heady territory for a kid who grew up in a school of 600 students simply hoping to land an athletic scholarship, though Beachum insists he won't be overcome by the moment.
Yeah, it's the NFL. It's still just football.
"They get paid just like you get paid," Beachum said. "They might get paid a little more, but you need to go out there and perform and put your best foot forward."
Something Beachum has done since being pressed into service following injuries to Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams and Willie Colon. Beachum made his first start in Baltimore two weeks ago and helped keep backup quarterback Charlie Batch out of trouble as the Steelers rallied for a season-saving 23-20 victory.