By Matthew Marczi
Since the moment that the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted David DeCastro in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, the offensive guard has been given the highest of expectations to live up to from its fanbase. He was off to a fine start after winning the right guard position from Ramon Foster during training camp, but his rookie campaign was derailed by an injury in the preseason.
Since then, it has been nothing but an uphill battle for DeCastro to try to ascend to the level of greatness that is expected of him. He has gone through his struggles both this year and last year. However, while he may not have turned in an All-Pro performance, the game against the Chicago Bears may have been his best yet.
One of his biggest issues since returning to play has been not pulling itself, but actually securing and maintaining his block after pulling. He has no issues with mobility, it was just an issues of being able to stick to his man. But while he did not pull often, he did show some growth on the move in the running game, including an impressive set of back-to-back plays that accumulated a total of 34 yards primarily due to his blocks.
These successive plays occurred late in the second quarter after the Steelers forced a punt. On first and 10 from the 13, DeCastro pulled to his left—the one time that he did so during the game—and cleared Lance Briggs out of the hole, springing Felix Jones for a nice nine-yard gain.
It is also worth pointing out that David Johnson did a nice job of assisting Mike Adams in collapsing the right side of the defense, giving Jones the penetration necessary to get through traffic.
The Steelers were in the no huddle at this point, down 24-10, so they lined up again right away, and this time DeCastro pulled to his right, swapping Jones for Jonathan Dwyer. Major Wright came charging in from the secondary, but DeCastro bulled him out of the way.
It was more than 20 yards before Dwyer was even touched, thanks primarily to DeCastro’s block. However, it would be a disservice not to mention the fine work that Emmanuel Sanders continues to do as a blocking wide receiver, whose seal of Tim Jennings on the outside was a key contributor to the success of that play.
Of course, DeCastro was not perfect on the night, even on the few times that he pulled during the game. He was on a pull to his right early in the fourth quarter when he completely whiffed on Jon Bostic.
To his credit, however, he did not give up on the play. After he saw that Bostic had not made the tackle on Dwyer, he followed his running back down the field where he was stalemated by two defenders, and he barreled his way into the heap of humanity to help push it forward for an extra yard or two.
With DeCastro showing improvements in his ability to pull at the professional level, I am starting to hope that we see it more often, which should also help him get more comfortable doing it.