The NFL is a business. And it comes with cruel realities. Players get hurt, like Zach Banner did in the Week 1 opener last season. Players get released, as David DeCastro did yesterday.
Banner wishes they could’ve been paired together for just one year. Speaking with Lance Meadow and former Steelers’ OT Max Starks on Sirius XM Radio, Banner reacted to the news of DeCastro’s release.
“I’m blessed to call Dave a big brother of mine and a mentor of mine,” Banner said. “And in doing so and being part of this offensive line and being part of this group…in the back of my mind, I was really hoping, not begging because it’s not my story or my situation. I’m here to support them in all they do. I was really hoping for just one more year with Dave to play next to him.”
Had DeCastro remained on the roster and Banner stayed healthy, they would have been the team’s starting right guard and right tackle. That was the plan a year ago. But Banner tore his ACL against the Giants and DeCastro battled multiple injuries, though he started 13 games. The two didn’t even play the opener together with DeCastro sitting the game out due to injury.
Now, Banner will line up next to Trai Turner, officially signed to a one-year contract on Friday.
Banner spoke to what DeCastro has meant to his growth and development.
“To talk about Dave specifically, you know, there’s really a couple of different players that I’ve been around in this league and gotten to know that are like Dave., Luke Kuechly is one of them. Andrew Luck the other. But those three themselves are the type of people that have played at such a high level high school, college and the pros. They’ve done it for so long and they’re so good at it. And they’re so blessed but when you sit around with them and you eat dinner with them, and you drink wine and you break bread with them. You’ll realize that that’s not the only thing they got going for him. Dave is one of the smartest human beings I have ever been around.”
A Stanford grad, DeCastro should have an easier time finding “life’s work” if this is truly the end of his NFL career. Like Luck or Kuechly, he was a football player but it didn’t define him the way it might others. He became one of the team leaders, along with Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey, and his release was the end of a chapter of team history.
Banner shared one of the pieces of advice DeCastro gave him.
“One of the things that he said to me, this was a couple of years ago when we’re all hanging out as an offensive line is the fact that no matter how good you played this game, it’s a matter of time…when you die on your gravestone, your football statistics and your football accolades and everything like that are not going to go on there. So what is it that people are going to remember you about?”
Wise perspective for someone like DeCastro who remember, is still only in his early 30s. Old for a football player, still young for someone in life. He now has the next 50 years to live his life beyond football. For so many athletes, they struggle with that transition since sports have been all they’ve ever known.
Though Banner isn’t speaking for DeCastro, he hinted the fact other core members of the Steelers’ line are no longer here may make for an easier decision to retire should he ultimately choose that path. He’s scheduled to have a third ankle surgery and will evaluate his career from there.
“It’s not so much about Dave not having the passion about it anymore. But injuries take a certain mindset and a certain attack process, right? On top of that, his boys leaving and him being the only OG left in that group, you know? That might’ve had a factor in it too as well.”
Banner finished his thoughts by noting he had a quick conversation with DeCastro yesterday.
“I just sent him a simple text and said, ‘I love you, bro.’ He said, ‘I love you too. Keep working on that knee. I’m proud of you. I’ll be watching you all season if you need anything hit me.'”