Pittsburgh Steelers rookie right guard David DeCastro suffered what head coach Mike Tomlin is calling "severe damage" in his right knee in the first quarter of Saturday night's game against the Buffalo Bills (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
Though no further reports have yet emerged from the team, sources told ESPN that DeCastro tore his MCL and patella tendon in that leg and that his season is likely over.
DeCastro was the Steelers' 2012 first-round draft pick and part of an aggressive movement to get their offensive line back on track after 2011's injury-plagued line caused the running game to stagnate and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to be sacked 40 times.
Though not all is lost simply because of DeCastro's injury—it is an ill-timed setback for a squad that could use anything but.
DeCastro wasn't the starting right guard in Saturday's game—that would be Ramon Foster, someone who is familiar with the intricacies of the position and someone who wasn't going to give up his job to DeCastro without a fight.
As such, Foster will remain the starter on the right barring any additional injuries on the line. That last part, however, cannot be guaranteed and is why DeCastro being lost for at least part of, if not all of, the 2012 season hurts the Steelers significantly.
What the Steelers need more than simply offensive-line depth is starting-caliber depth. Regardless of whether Foster or DeCastro would have otherwise been the starter, there would remain someone with a great deal of talent behind him.
Now, the Steelers' depth chart looks suspiciously bereft of guard talent, to the point that they'll likely have to keep someone they had planned to cut or start grooming a depth tackle in the ways of the guard position—or sacrifice someone else's roster spot in favor of a waiver-wire acquisition over the coming weekend.
One more injury to a starter on the line and the Steelers are pretty much back in the situation they were in last year. The hope is that they can get better, more consistent play out of their second- or even third-string members of their line than they did last year, but the better option would be for those players to not even have to take the field at all this season.
Taken alone, DeCastro's injury is but a very serious disappointment—it is not the end of the Steelers' offense nor their offensive line. DeCastro was tagged to be the long-term future and anchor of the line—the new Alan Faneca, said some—and though this possibility hasn't been eradicated, it's absolutely frustrating for the team that their first-round pick likely cannot contribute this season and try to live up to those expectations.
There's no reason to assume that DeCastro's injury is the tip of the iceberg and that the woes of 2011 will continue on into this season. It's bad, but the Steelers can overcome it. What happened on Saturday is DeCastro's worse-case scenario, not the Steelers'.
Foster will take over as right guard and the team will forge forward. It's as simple as that.
Update: Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is reporting that DeCastro has a torn MCL, a dislocated kneecap and an injury to his patella tendon and will undergo surgery later this week. DeCastro is expected back in three to five months; the Steelers may or may not put him on injured reserve.