Roster turnover is an inevitability in this league. But the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster has changed considerably since the end of last season. Many players who have been important to this franchise departed, either in retirement, limbo, or another uniform. As we wind down the time until training camp opens, it feels appropriate to acknowledge the old faces that we’ll no longer be seeing on the sidelines this year.
That includes Pro Bowlers and former high draft picks, as well as undrafted free agents of varying accomplishment. Four losses along the offensive line, multiple departures at linebacker and in the secondary, and other changes mixed in, will make for a rather different roster.
All the same, there are the steady presences that remain: the Ben Roethlisbergers, the T.J. Watts, the Cameron Heywards. Who will be the next long-term faces? Minkah Fitzpatrick will certainly be one. What about Cameron Sutton? Zach Banner? Kevin Dotson? Devin Bush? When will their names join this series?
G David DeCastro
In what is perhaps the most surprising development of this offseason for the Steelers, Pittsburgh waived veteran guard David DeCastro late last month with a Non-Football Injury designation. He later told reporters that he got an MRI during minicamp that showed that he needs to have another surgery on his ankle, and that calls into question his ability to play this year.
The team, knowing that they couldn’t count on his playing this year, but also that they couldn’t replace him without his cap space, opted to waive him in this manner and turned around to bring in the top available guard, that being Trai Turner, who will step in at right guard on a one-year, $3 million deal.
DeCastro was the 24th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, a player who ‘slid’ far down the board as the clear top guard in the draft class, coming out of Stanford. He was a plug-and-play starter, yet his career was delayed after suffering a torn MCL during his rookie preseason.
He has said recently that his doctors believe his chronic ankle issues, which have already required two previous surgery, stem from damage suffered during the on-field incident that led to the MCL tear, as he was fallen upon while Marcus Gilbert was entangled with a defender.
But he would go on to start 124 of 125 games, never missing more than two games after his rookie year until this past season. He was dealing with a separate injury in training camp already, which caused him to miss the first two games, and then he missed another start three weeks later.
The 2020 season was clearly his worst performance of his career, during which he acknowledges he battled that ankle, among other injuries, but there was a clear period of time in which he was one of the top guards in the game, making the Pro Bowl in six consecutive seasons from 2015 on, along with multiple first-team All-Pro distinctions. He won’t be easy to replace by any means, and it’s unlikely Turner is more than a one-year rental.