Capitals

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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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Report: Derrius Guice's attorney denies client's domestic abuse allegations

Report: Derrius Guice's attorney denies client's domestic abuse allegations

Derrius Guice's representation has released a statement that says the Washington Football Team running back "adamantly denies" the charges that he was arrested for on Friday

Guice turned himself into the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office facing one count of strangulation, three counts of assault and battery, and one count destruction of property.

The following statement from Peter Greenspun was obtained by Ben Standig of The Athletic. 

"Mr. Guice will not be commenting on these charges, which he adamantly denies. We ask that the media respect Mr. Guice's privacy," the statement read. 

"Unfortunately, the investigators did not seek a statement or any input for Derrius before the warrants were issued. The failure to fully investigate allegations of events, which allegedly took place months ago is inexplicable."

Greenspun, who has a historic career and most notably was a defense attorney in the 'D.C. Sniper trial,' called the charges of his client "unsubstantiated." He also called out the football franchise for releasing Guice prematurely without inquiring about the investigation. 

"... a full vetting of the allegations will take place, in contrast to actions by local law enforcement and the Washington Football Team that assumed the worst, directly contradicting every sense of fairness and due process," the statement concluded.

The Washington Football Team released Guice less than an hour after his arrest became public. The move came through as a part of the culture Ron Rivera has vowed to instill during his first few months as head coach. This is also not the first time Guice has faced issues for off-the-field behavior. He fell to the team back in the 2018 draft due to issues he had while with LSU.

In his short tenure, Rivera has dealt with a tumultuous series of issues arising from the franchise including current and former players facing other serious allegations, a monumental name change, and serious allegations of the culture within the team's executives.

Despite injuries mounting in two years for the 23-year-old back, it was expected that Guice would become the leading rusher in the backfield this season. Still, he had yet to prove to be a consistent contributor with only 42 carries for 245 yards and two touchdowns entering his third season.

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