Late Thursday afternoon the Pittsburgh Steelers made the consequential decision to release 6-time Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro, prompting further consternation about the state of the team’s offensive line. The Steelers immediately addressed the position via free agency, signing 5-time Pro Bowler Trai Turner to a one-year contract.
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Meanwhile, Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was able to reach DeCastro via text, who indicated that he is facing ankle surgery.
“I have to get surgery on my ankle a third time,’ DeCastro texted Starkey. “I tried to fix it last year but the bone spurs kept coming back. It nagged me pretty bad all last year.”
That could account for why DeCastro had a subpar season in 2020, at least by his standards. The 31-year-old received a relatively low Pro Football Focus grade (64.1, including a 50.0 run blocking grade) with his play also compromised, perhaps, by knee and abdominal injuries. That’s a far cry from the 90.0 grade he posted in 2017, one of two years in which he was named first-team All-Pro. Nevertheless, he did manage to earn Pro Bowl honors for a sixth consecutive year in 2020.
Does DeCastro Plan to Resume His Career?
As for whether DeCastro plans to come back and play again, he told Starkey: “Gotta see how the surgery goes. But I’d have no problem calling it a day and moving on with my life.”
That doesn’t sound like a man who is likely to return to the playing field.
Of course, even if DeCastro accomplishes nothing else in the NFL, he will likely receive at least some consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Six Pro Bowl invitations in nine years will do that, though unlike newly-elected Hall of Famer Alan Faneca, he never won a Super Bowl ring (or even played in a Super Bowl).
The Steelers Released David DeCastro with a NFI Designation
One little-noticed detail about the DeCastro roster move is that he was released with a non-football injury (NFI) designation, per the league’s official transaction report.
“This means that, in the team’s estimation, his injury is not football related,” notes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. From a practical perspective, the procedural move “prevents [DeCastro] from realizing any additional benefits from the team, if his ankle problem prevents him from playing this year.”
It also suggests that “something happened with DeCastro’s ankle between early January and now, something that the team believes happened somewhere other than at work,” offers Florio.
That’s another angle to keep an eye on depending on whether or not DeCastro returns to the playing field.
Meanwhile, the Steelers have a big hole to fill at right guard. Trai Turner might be the leading contender, but there are other candidates, including former Chicago Bears guard Rashaad Coward, who was running with Pittsburgh’s first-teamers while DeCastro was absent for OTAs and sidelined for all minicamp practices.
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