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Steelers rookie tackle Beachum learning on the fly

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Steelers rookie tackle Beachum learning on the fly

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.

The going was significantly rougher in last week's 34-24 whipping by San Diego, though Beachum was hardly alone as the Steelers struggled to get anything going offensively until the game was well out of reach.

He expects to bounce back this week. Having DeCastro line up next to him won't hurt. Beachum joked the two were ``making history'' though the Steelers will settle for the rookies creating running room for backs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley just smiled when asked if he's ever been in a situation where the entire NFL careers of the right side of the line is a combined four games. It's not exactly the lineup Haley envisioned in August.

``We've been in some pretty sticky situations but that's kind of how this year has been for this group,'' Haley said. ``We haven't always performed the way that we'd like or up to our abilities, but I do think that with some of the adversity we've had to face through some of these injuries, it's forced the guys to become extra cohesive and look out for our own.''

DeCastro and Beachum will certainly be looking out for each other on Sunday as the Steelers try to build some momentum heading into a showdown with Cincinnati on Dec. 23 that will likely determine which team plays into January.

``We're great together,'' DeCastro said. ``(Kelvin's) obviously a smart guy, and I think we'll work well together.''

The Steelers need them to if they expect to play into January. All niceties aside, Beachum really is the last option. Gilbert is out for the season with an ankle injury, Adams - the team's second-round pick in April - is out indefinitely with his own ankle problem and Colon is down with a balky knee.

Suddenly, Pittsburgh's Mr. Irrelevant is very relevant. Though Beachum understands he's unlikely to be the starter when everyone gets healthy, even if that's not until next summer, he doesn't try to think about what each snap means in terms of his future.

``You've got to man up, that's pretty much it,'' Beachum said. ``It's simple man. You take it by the horns and you roll with it. You don't have time to think about what can happen, you've just got to block the guy in front of you.''

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NOTES: LB LaMarr Woodley practiced again Thursday and appears ready to start in Dallas. Woodley has missed the last two weeks with a sprained ankle ... LB James Harrison missed his second straight practice with an illness ... S Troy Polamalu also skipped practice but it was deemed ``not injury'' related. ... The Cowboys (7-6) are a game behind the Giants in the NFC East.

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL /

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING

The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

RELATED: DURANT MAKES HUGE DONATION TO PG COUNTY SCHOOLS

Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.