The Pittsburgh Steelers were hoping that they had their offensive line set once David DeCastro worked his way back from a knee injury that he suffered during training camp, and which held him out of the first two games of the season. While DeCastro was out, right tackle Zach Banner was also lost for the season, but his training camp competitor, Chukwuma Okorafor, stepped in to fill his place.
The veteran All-Pro guard made it back into the field for game three and played well in a victory over the Houston Texans, including on the pull, even if his strength over the course of his career has slid more to pass protection.
But unfortunately, DeCastro was unable to make it through the first half of today’s game. He sustained what was described as an abdominal injury and was ruled out for the remainder of the game before we even reached halftime, leaving Kevin Dotson to handle the position for the rest of the game.
Dotson, of course, did start earlier this season, in the second game of the year. After Stefen Wisniewski was injured in the opener, he rookie took over, and by now, he has actually logged the most snaps at right guard so far this year for the Steelers of the three who have manned the position.
The good news is that, for the second time in four games, Dotson has looked good while playing. The only real blemish that was immediately evident on the day was when he was flagged for being an ineligible man down the field on a first-down pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second quarter. He added a late holding penalty to that, a fair call.
It’s good that Dotson is looking the part, but that is a concern for the future, not the present, and I don’t think a coherent argument can be made that the team wouldn’t be better with a healthy DeCastro, who has been the team’s best lineman for several years running.
Outside of a thumb injury a couple of years ago, this is the first time that the Stanford alum has grappled with injuries since his rookie season, when he suffered a torn MCL during the third preseason game after a teammate was blocked into him.
As mentioned, he did miss two games in the 2018 season because of that hand injury, but he has already missed more time in 2020, more time than he has missed since his rookie year in 2012. The question is, will this be an ongoing concern for the remainder of the season? It would be a severe blow if so, both in the starting lineup and to the team’s depth.