With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and there soon being little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first eight games with a 6-2 record, tied for the best in the AFC along with the Patriots and the Chiefs, the latter of whom they have already beaten.
The offense has not lived up to its billing for the most part this year, though the running game has had its moments. Defensively, the sacks have come, and the secondary has improved, but there will always be things to work on.
Player: David DeCastro, RG
As I pointed out earlier today, fifth-year right tackle David DeCastro is this season playing about as well as he has at any point of his career. The only season in which he might have played better, as a whole, was in 2014, when he made the first-team All-Pro list.
He seems to be headed back in that direction once again, especially if he continues to have strong second halves, as he has each of the past two years. The former first-round pick has been about as close to a sure thing—an automatic thing—as the team has had recently.
One aspect of the season that I think really should not be overlooked is the fact that DeCastro has had for the majority of the year been unable to play with his usual partner at right tackle in Marcus Gilbert, with Chris Hubbard starting the majority of the games this year due to hamstring injuries for the former.
Within that narrative is the fact that Gilbert has checked out of games, midgame, twice, which means that DeCastro has had to adjust on the fly two times and make sure that he is working on the same page as Hubbard on stunts and blocking assignments.
While the running game has been inconsistent overall this year—even some of their more prolific games in total rushing yards were only average in efficiency per play—one of the few sure successes for them has been on the counter trey with DeCastro pulling as the lead blocker, something that has become a staple in his portfolio for years already.
The only game in which I really thought he had some issues was against the Jaguars, as he was beaten a few times in pass protection on outside moves by multiple different defenders. Other than that, he has been very consistent, which is key.
He had a couple of penalties that raised some eyebrows after he had a ton last year, but that doesn’t seem to be a recurring problem. He’s been a rare highlight on the offensive side of the ball.