It seems as though the Pittsburgh Steelers call themselves lucky every year in the first round of the NFL Draft and claim to have had a player on their board when their turn to pick came up that they were willing to run up to the podium to lock down.
The results of the aftermath have been mixed—well, that’s mostly on Jarvis Jones, admittedly—but one player they were rightly ecstatic to see fall to them, in hindsight, was Stanford guard David DeCastro in 2012, who slid all the way down to the 24th slot in the first round.
Scheduled to be a day-one starter, the rookie suffered a torn MCL in the middle of the preseason when he and Marcus Gilbert collided with one another, against the Bills if I recall correctly, which resulted in him missing most of his rookie season.
He was kept around, but only played in the final three games, starting them, and not exactly looking like a first-rounder, but more so a guy playing the first meaningful snaps of his career after coming back from a significant knee injury and taking on veterans who were by then in midseason form.
He still wasn’t quite the hero expected for most of his second season, but he really starter to come into his own in 2014, and for the past two seasons, he has been a consistent presence in the Pro Bowl and on the All-Pro lists, well on pace to continue that trend in 2017.
“He’s getting better every year”, his position coach for the bulk of his career, Hall of Fame guard Mike Munchak, told Joe Rutter. “He enjoys what he does. He enjoys the game, and he’s very consistent in everything he does. There’s nothing he can’t do. He’s good at everything”.
Munchak was about the perfect mentor to help grow the young and talented guard, having done virtually everything that DeCastro has been asked to do, at the highest level, for a long period of time. The only better mentor he could hope for would be Alan Faneca—and he’s been in camp for the past two years.
“The more he started doing things, the better he got”, Munchak said about DeCastro’s growth over time. “Whether it’s running on screens, pulling on plays or trapping, whether it’s pass blocking or just learning the game within the game, he’s grown in every area’.
The offensive line coach was in particular impressed with the Stanford product’s football intelligence.
“He understands the game”, he said. “He’s here every day. He practices every day. He likes the routine. It’s important to him. He’s a true pro. You wish you had a bunch of him”.
The Steelers, though, are lucky to have one of the best offensive lines in football. DeCastro might be their centerpiece today, but there is still the decorated Maurkice Pouncey at center, the consistent Ramon Foster, and the tackle pairing of Marcus Gilbert—who needs to stay healthy—and Alejandro Villanueva.