If there is one thing that the Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten out of David DeCastro consistently this season, it has been his work as a pulling run blocker. I’ve found that he has shown a number of inconsistencies in other areas, including on interior runs and in pass protection. Of course, the latter has been a struggle recently working with Mike Adams to his right.
But when it came to the power counter run on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, DeCastro had the look of a Pro Bowl-caliber offensive lineman. He and the tight ends made it look easy for Le’Veon Bell to pile up the rushing yards running off the left end.
The first such run came on the second play of the game on a six-yard gain for a first down. Running out of a three tight end set, DeCastro and Will Johnson led the way for Bell. Safety Reggie Nelson was swallowed by the guard, who had to release in order to avoid a holding call, but he got enough on the block without a foul to get Bell to the edge for the first down.
Later in the first quarter, on the Steelers’ third drive, the offense opened with three straight carries for two, nine, and then 18 yards, the first double-digit play of the day for Pittsburgh. On this occasion, they showed a two tight end look, with Matt Spaeth pulling along with DeCastro. The guard really buried Nelson on this run, and Bell was unimpeded for nearly the entire length of his run.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that the biggest run of the game also came on the same counter play to the left. Just after the Bengals had retaken the lead on a long 81-yard touchdown pass, Bell immediately got the team back in scoring range with a 53-yard run on the first play of the ensuing drive.
It was cornerback Adam Jones this time attempting to combat with the sizable offensive lineman, who wanted no part of the physical confrontation. DeCastro simply walked him to the perimeter with just a bit of hand fighting.
All three big run plays in the fourth quarter, in fact, came on the same play, or at least the same concept, with minor variations. The common thread between all of them, of course, was DeCastro leading the way on the pull block to the left.
The right guard helped end the second drive of the quarter with a 13-yard touchdown. He chipped off linebacker Vincent Rey and helped create the path to allow Bell to find his own way into the end zone.
The second touchdown required less effort from DeCastro, as Jones put in minimal effort on his part, simply diving in front of the guard to attempt to occupy him. All that accomplished was to help the tight ends seal the edge for Bell into the end zone.