There tends to be a visceral response among some fans in response to any sign of struggle from a player who had just signed a big contract. With Pittsburgh Steelers right guard David DeCastro got off to a slower start a year ago after signing a new contract, he heard it from the—throughout the season, in fact, even though he went to the Pro Bowl and was named second-team All-Pro.
He has dealt with no such slow start in his second season since signing that new contract, and has been perhaps the only offensive lineman on the team who has remained consistent through two weeks. He has performed well enough to be recognized by Pro Football Focus currently as the best guard in football.
Within their gradings, he has been scored at 90.8 through the first three weeks, the best grade among 69 eligible guards around the league. It has been his run-blocking—contrary to what initial impressions may be, given that the Steelers are averaging 3.5 yards per carry—that set him over the top of everybody else.
I realize that not everybody respects PFF and what they do, but I concur with their analysis in claiming that DeCastro has played very well to date. And I also back up their claim that his work in the run game has been good. In fact, I did a film session article based on his performance against the Vikings, which can be viewed here as a refresher, and perhaps some pre-game reading.
PFF gave him a 93.1 score for his performance in that game, and he has the highest run-blocking grade among guards on the year to date, but he has also done well in pass protection. He did not allow a pressure against the Bears last week.
In fact, “in 117 total pass block snaps this season”, the article goes, “DeCastro has allowed only one pressure, a hurry…he is one of just thirteen to not allow a sack or quarterback hit”. He also has the fourth-highest pass-blocking efficiency rating among guards.
While I do think that he is overall playing better than he did at times last season, I also feel that his 2016 season viewed in hindsight has been undersold. While he started off slowly, he grew quite a bit over the course of the season, and his main faults all year were simply the penalties.
While he has drawn one holding call so far through three games—which was declined—DeCastro has generally stayed clean this year. It seemed at the time that the penalties had to be an anomaly, and at least so far, that seems to have been the case. He seems geared for another All-Pro season—admittedly made all the easier in the absence of Marshal Yanda.