While the sudden David DeCastro news caught everybody off guard, the Pittsburgh Steelers were fortunate to at least have an option like Trai Turner available to step in. DeCastro had an MRI during minicamp that revealed he would need surgery on his ankle, and the team subsequently released him as he now contemplates his future.
Turner is a former Pro Bowler himself, but like many veterans who are in a similar stage in their careers, injuries have grown to be an issue. That is part of the reason that he was available, of course, when he was, as well as for the price.
Given the number of new and inexperienced faces in the starting lineup, however, the opportunity to bring in a veteran with so much experience as Turner seemed like an ideal alternative, and the Steelers are happy with what they’ve seen so far, as they figure out how he fits in.
“We’ve been here three days so it might take a couple more”, offensive coordinator Matt Canada said on that front. “He had a mistake today that I didn’t see on the side. As we worked, he came up and knew what it was and said it right away”.
“Obviously a veteran like him who’s played as well as he has, I think we’re very fortunate to have him and really like where he’s at”, he added. “And he’s worked very hard to not have those mistakes and to be as efficient as he has been in three days is really a real positive for us and him. Big fan of his”.
The Steelers are breaking in a very new offensive line this year, following the release of DeCastro, the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, and the free agency departures of Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler. Though some faces carry over from last season, most are in different roles.
Zach Banner is the only returning starter, and he only got to play the opening game before tearing his ACL, but he is back to play at right tackle. Chukwuma Okorafor played the rest of last season there, but is now moving to the left side. Kevin Dotson will take over at left guard, after starting four games as a rookie. Kendrick Green, a third-round pick, is projected to be their center.
And then there is Turner at right guard. DeCastro was supposed to be the veteran holdover who helps anchor the offensive line as they begin a significant transition, but his health and the Steelers’ salary cap situation had other plans.
The question is now whether or not Turner can come in and regain his Pro Bowl form from years past. It would certainly be a boost to this young offensive line, especially with a rookie starter next to him at center, if he can use his own experience to help bring the rest along.