The Pittsburgh Steelers have played six games now so far in 2020. Veteran right guard David DeCastro has only played in three of them. He missed the first two games of the season due to a knee injury suffered in training camp, and a separate ailment kept him out in week six.
In fact, he has only played 181 snaps this year, which is 42 percent of the total, with rookie Kevin Dotson, who made two starts in his place, taking up most of the time that he missed, logging 190 snaps on the year, still more than DeCastro.
While Dotson has played well, particularly in pass protection, there is a difference between the two, without question, and that’s not necessarily talking about talent level, but rather veteran experience and familiarity, both with the system and with his fellow offensive linemen.
It’s something that Maurkice Pouncey talked about when he appeared on Inside Access on Tuesday, discussing playing with DeCastro when he’s been healthy. “It just makes it comfortable”, he said. “You don’t have to make as many calls because he sees the game just as you do because you’ve been playing together for so long”.
“The appreciation factor of having another guy that’s been there as long as you have and both guys are grinding it out—me and DeCastro and Al Villanueva, we have a special relationship”, he added. “I appreciate them guys a lot”.
Pouncey was drafted in 2010 in the first round. DeCastro came on board two years later via the first round in 2012. Villanueva was first signed to the practice squad in 2014, and made the team in 2015, and has started every game at left tackle since around them middle of that season—in fact, rarely even missing a snap.
All three of them are over 30 years old now, however. Villanueva is in the final year of his current contract, while Pouncey and DeCastro are under contract through 2021. They all know that time is running out on their all playing together, and possibly even playing professional football.
Of course, that’s just the cycle of things. It’s very difficult to have a long NFL career, and ‘long’ in professional sports is, at best, a couple of decades. The new replace the old, and we’re seeing Dotson stepping up as someone who is likely a future starter.
But his time is not yet now. We still have a couple of former All-Pros in the heart of this lineup, and they are still playing at a high level, helping to orchestrate one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league who are bleeding defenses with papercuts up and down the field.