Replacing A Championship Roster – Trai Essex To David DeCastro

The Pittsburgh Steelers have experienced an uncommon amount of roster turnover over the last few seasons, which just so happened to coincide with consecutive years without a postseason berth.

As a result, we’re finding an unusual amount of new faces in the starting lineup compared just to last season, when the season before already introduced several new starters.

The rapid turnover in successive seasons certainly has much to do with the organization’s personnel management over the previous years. Time, as always, came out the victor as they felt the ramifications of trying to hold together a championship roster that could no longer perform like one.

Considering  how different the projected starting lineup for the start of the 2014 season is from just two seasons ago, I think it would be interesting to revisit the roster from the 2010 season—the last time the Steelers competed for a championship—to see how different this new team truly is.

We will continue with the offensive line, which has seen about as much change as any position over the past few years.

Even though the Steelers may have competed for a Super Bowl championship in 2010, that doesn’t necessarily speak to the quality of the offensive line. Of course, Steelers fans understand this better than most, considering the offensive line of the 2008 season.

But consider this. The Steelers began the 2010 season with Trai Essex as the starting right guard. They re-signed him at the time, coaxing him to stay by guaranteeing an opportunity to compete for a starting job. Admittedly, in part due to injury, he would eventually lose that job.

But today, the starting right guard for the Steelers is David DeCastro, who has future Pro Bowler written all over him. That’s about as significant an upgrade as was the shifting from Justin Hartwig to Maurkice Pouncey at center.

Essex, in fact, only started the first two games of the 2010 season before suffering a high ankle sprain. He didn’t return until six weeks later, with Doug Legursky filling in for him. Essex lasted only three more games, however, before he was benched for Ramon Foster.

Foster, of course, filled DeCastro’s spot for most of the latter’s rookie season in 2012 after he suffered a torn MCL. Foster started the first 13 games at right guard that year before moving to left guard during the last three games when DeCastro returned.

That is where the two remain today, and last season, they were clearly the two best players along the offensive line, and among the two best players on either side of the ball.

DeCastro in particular, while less consistent, displayed moments of dominance, and signs of a player that the Steelers will be able to run an offense through in the future—particularly with respect to the running game.

DeCastro got off to a slow start in his first full season last year, and battled some injuries, which affected his performance. But he showed that he is a player to watch, and was in fact named as a third alternate for the Pro Bowl. It would make perfect sense if he finds himself on the Pro Bowl roster in February 2015. DeCastro is a championship-type starter. Essex certainly was not.

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