While it certainly didn’t come out of nowhere, the news dropped yesterday that longtime Pittsburgh Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey was retiring after 11 seasons. It was the latest domino to fall for a once-dominant offensive line that the team is finding out needs a lot of tweaking after age and departures have taken its toll.
Ramon Foster retired last year already. Marcus Gilbert was traded following a round of injuries. Now Alejandro Villanueva is likely to leave in free agency. That was four fifths of the Steelers’ starting five for a good chunk of time, and arguably the best combination they have ever had at one time in their history.
By the time the 2021 regular season begins, it is entirely possible, and in fact likely, that David DeCastro will be the last man standing from that group. Entering his ninth season as a former 2012 first-round draft pick, the decorated guard is still playing at a high level, but the future is hard to predict, even for those who know him.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen to Dave”, Foster said yesterday on the Poni and Mueller Show while discussing the Steelers’ offensive line. “I know Dave’s in a really good position, because he’s at that point where he could renegotiate his contract, to get a new contract. But I don’t know if that’s gonna be in Pittsburgh. I don’t know what it is, but we know, as players, that clock. Father Time always finds a way to catch up to us, and we’ve all had those conversations”.
Is Foster suggesting that DeCastro might not finish his career in Pittsburgh? That’s what it sounded like to me. He is entering the final year of his contract in 2021, slated to make nearly $9 million in base salary. This is ordinarily the point in time in which the Steelers would negotiate an extension with him.
But will they? Having turned 31 a month ago, and still capable of playing at a high level, there is certainly little doubt that he has a little something left in the tank, and there’s nothing indicating that he is looking to hand up his cleats any time soon.
Then again, a lot of things might look different at this time next year. Ben Roethlisberger could retire in 2022, assuming that he even plays this year. That could frankly nudge others out the door—either into retirement, or into free agency.
DeCastro would no doubt have options. A Stanford graduate, and a Washington native, he could find himself back on the west coast, with the San Francisco 49ers or the Seattle Seahawks, for example. Perhaps if they afford him a better chance to win the title that has eluded him in the Steel City.