Sunday was a rare moment for the Pittsburgh Steelers, during which they had the entirety of their interior offensive line intact. That includes right guard David DeCastro, a former first-round draft pick who missed almost all of his rookie season.
He is entering what is essentially his second season as a starter, and he got off to a fine start against the Cleveland Browns, particularly in pass protection, though he had a few issues in the running game on the move.
On the second play of the game, DeCastro threw a key block to spring wide receiver Antonio Brown for a long catch and run of over 40 yards. After chipping the end, he sprung out to knock the linebacker off his trajectory, which was heading straight for Brown.
Later on the opening drive, he worked a combination block to wall off the left side of the defensive line and get running back Le’Veon Bell out in space off the far right side of the offense. Working against the line, DeCastro peeled off to pick up the linebacker, allowing Bell to get the edge, aided by Brown’s blocking efforts as well.
Toward the end of the first quarter, the Steelers had third and one on their own seven-yard line when DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert crashed inside on the Browns’ defensive line. With some helpful blocking from the tight end and wide receivers, LeGarrette Blount was able to pounce into the end zone virtually untouched.
Following Ben Roethlisberger’s interception and the Browns’ subsequent punt, the Steelers were backed up deep in their own territory. On first down, Pittsburgh pulled both DeCastro and Heath Miller, a play they ran so often during the preseason, with DeCastro absorbing the outside linebacker to help Bell find the edge for a seven-yard gain.
A few plays later, he was looking for something to do in pass protection with the Browns only rushing four. He decided to give Gilbert an assist and knocked the outside linebacker to the ground as he was occupied with the right tackle.
Into the third quarter, the Steelers found themselves in a very similar position as the play following the turnover. Facing a second and nine from their own seven, the Steelers again pulled the right guard and tight end, but this time the outside linebacker got the better of DeCastro, crashing down on his inside shoulder and thus getting him turned, giving the linebacker easy access to the backfield.
As a matter of fact, there were several such plays throughout the afternoon that suffered a similar result. DeCastro had a difficult time navigating to his left on pulls, and a handful of the failed runs of the day were due to this fact. This is but an example of that.
That’s not to say that he struggles in space, however, as seen on Brown’s early long catch and run. He threw a key block late in the game on a long gain on a screen pass to Bell as well, catching the safety to earn the back a few extra yards.