Although there has been some turnover during the course of the past couple of years, by and large, the core group in the offensive line has remained intact for the better part of a decade. Ramon Foster is gone, but Maurkice Pouncey is still here at center, in his 11th season. David DeCastro isn’t far behind him in year nine. Even Alejandro Villanueva is in his sixth season. Matt Feiler is technically in year four, but he spent three years on practice squads first, including two with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The retirement of Ramon Foster left a big void in the offensive line room. He was a major presence there, and not to mention, he was also the team’s union rep on top of that, which goes to show how well-respected he was by his teammates.
But Pouncey has seemingly always been there, and DeCastro has been right alongside him most of the way, sharing a number of trips to the Pro Bowl together. Both have missed some time this year and perhaps have not been at their best, but Villanueva recently offered praised for the Stanford graduate’s approach to his draft.
“He’s a very professional person”, he told reporters on Friday about DeCastro. “He loves to approach things from a very meticulous and analytical sort of way, the way that he sets, the way that he plays, the way that he approaches everything. He plays odds”.
And according to Villanueva, that’s something that he drew from former Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who was here for five years between the 2014-2018 seasons. In addition to being one of the most respected line coaches in the league, he was also a Hall of Fame guard during his playing career.
“He learned that from Munch”, Villanueva said about DeCastro’s tendency to “play the odds” when it comes to the guard position. “Munch was a guy that played football like a card player, and that’s how he approaches the game. I wouldn’t worry too much about Dave”.
DeCastro experienced some early injury issues this season, going back to training camp, which required him to miss a total of three starts, and chunks of time in other games, but he has been his usual stalwart self in pass protection. The running game might be another story.
For the past two seasons since Munchak left to take a job with the Denver Broncos, Shaun Sarrett has been the Steelers’ offensive line coach. Sarrett was here even before Munchak, and served as his assistant during his tenure.
Results-wise, the group hasn’t necessarily been the same, but it’s hard to say how much of that is on the coaching and how much of it is on the offense, and on the available talent.