Pittsburgh Steelers: Assessing the Impact of David DeCastro's Injury

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Pittsburgh Steelers: Assessing the Impact of David DeCastro's Injury
Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

Exactly four months ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans were downright giddy about landing David DeCastro, the top guard in the 2012 NFL draft.

Watching him play in the first two preseason games did nothing to temper that giddiness.

But my dearly departed mother used to tell me that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

The Steelers did draft DeCastro. That wasn't a dream. It seems unlikely, however, that they'll have his services this season.

DeCastro was carted off the field three minutes into the Steelers' preseason game in Buffalo Saturday night. Fellow offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert fell on DeCastro's right leg during a play, causing DeCastro's knee to bend awkwardly.

NFL.com is reporting that DeCastro injured the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his right knee. An MRI is scheduled, according to Pro Football Talk.

The Steelers' 38-7 win over the Bills was a hollow victory, if there ever was one. Not only did the Steelers lose their top draft pick, but they lost him in a game that doesn't count.

The preseason should be pared down to two games with the regular season remaining at 16 games.

It would reduce the risk of injury in meaningless games, and let's not forget about the NFL's concussion crisis. Two preseason games instead of four would cut down at least a little bit on blows to the head that players take.

This isn't the first time the Steelers have lost a rookie first-round pick who has generated a lot of excitement.

 

In 2008, Rashard Mendenhall broke his shoulder in Week 4 against the Ravens and was out for the season.

The Steelers also got very little that season from their second-round pick, Limas Sweed.

Considering Mike Adams' performance so far in the preseason, this could be a repeat of 2008 in terms of the Steelers' fortunes with their top-two rookies.

The Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII under those conditions, but history is small consolation here.

Mendenhall didn't need to make an immediate impact as a rookie because Willie Parker was still around.

This season, the Steelers needed help from DeCastro right away.

This was going to be a new day for the Steelers' offensive line. DeCastro and Adams were supposed to join Maurkice Pouncey and Gilbert to turn a longtime weakness into a strength for the next decade.

Now, it looks like the Steelers will have to win with that same, old offensive line.

In the wake of DeCastro's injury, the 2012 version of that rag-tag unit likely will include Ramon Foster replacing DeCastro at right guard and Max Starks starting at left tackle until Adams is ready to sit at the big table.

They'll be joined by Willie Colon at left guard, Pouncey at center and Gilbert at right tackle.

 

In June, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Foster, who went undrafted in 2009, wasn't going to just concede his starting job to DeCastro.

Colon has played just one game in the last two seasons because of injuries. If he can stay healthy this season, it would be like acquiring a new player, which would be the closest the Steelers could come to compensating for the loss of DeCastro.

Starks was out of work until the Steelers called him in Week 5 last season, and his career appeared over after offseason ACL surgery. But he recovered and the Steelers came calling again.

Foster's resiliency and Colon and Starks' journey back from injuries are all inspirational stories. The problem is there are too many stories on the Steelers' offensive line and not enough young studs.

Sure, the Steelers have won a Super Bowl and gone to another one with similarly shoddy offensive lines.

Once upon a time, however, Roethlisberger was sacked just 23 times in 2005, and the Steelers won the Super Bowl that year, too. Roethlisberger has been sacked at least 32 times every year since then. It makes you wonder how many more Super Bowls the Steelers would have frequented if he had better protection.

Now, Roethlisberger might actually have to listen to his new boss Todd Haley, and get rid of the ball quicker if he wants to spend less time on the ground.

As long as Roethlisberger remains upright, the Steelers have a chance to win another Super Bowl.

They'll probably have to wait until next year, however, for the start of DeCastro's NFL career.

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