Steelers Release 6-Time Pro Bowler David DeCastro

David DeCastro with Ben Roethlisberger

Sean Gardner/Getty Images Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers and David DeCastro #66 of the Pittsburgh Steelers react after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints on December 23, 2018.

On Thursday afternoon the Pittsburgh Steelers announced the release of six-time Pro Bowl offensive guard David DeCastro, a not totally surprising but still shocking development. Eyebrows were raised at the end of last week, when the Steelers hosted free agent right guard Trai Turner on a visit immediately following the conclusion of the team’s mandatory minicamp. (Recall that DeCastro did not practice or meet with the media at minicamp, nor did he show up for any of the team’s voluntary OTAs).

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Adding to the mystery surrounding the situation, the phrasing of the team’s official announcement seems to indicate that DeCastro may have wanted out of Pittsburgh.

“David was without a doubt one of the premier offensive linemen during his time with us,” said general manager Kevin Colbert in a statement. “He helped us win a lot of football games, but it was David’s consistency, reliability and professionalism that stood out more than anything else. We wish him the best moving forward in his career.”

Pittsburgh’s Youth Movement on the O-Line Accelerates

This perhaps suggests that DeCastro didn’t want to be a part of the team’s sudden youth movement along the offensive line. In recent months, he saw longtime left tackle (and longtime carpool partner) Alejandro Villanueva leave for the Baltimore Ravens in free agency. He also witnessed the retirement of perennial Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who was drafted by the Steelers two years before he arrived in Pittsburgh as a 2020 first-round pick out of Stanford. Never mind the departure of veteran lineman Matt Feiler, who signed a three-year deal with the Chargers in free agency.

Another explanation, though, is that DeCastro is suffering from a chronic injury. That’s the explanation offered by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, who says DeCastro “has been having his ankle evaluated recently” and indicates that he “had surgery on it before last season.”

On the other hand, there haven’t been any issues reported with DeCastro’s ankle in the past year or more, even as he had a knee issue last summer, followed by an abdominal injury that caused him to miss three of the first five games of the 2020 season. Moreover, it was less than a week ago that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin went on record to say that there were no “significant … injury circumstances” as pertaining to DeCastro.

Regardless, as noted by Brooke Pryor of ESPN, the Steelers now have just one returning starter on the offensive line, that being Chuks Okorafor, who wasn’t even a starter on opening day last year and is trying to make the move from right tackle to left tackle.

Salary Cap Ramifications of David DeCastro’s Release

Of course, the move also has significant salary cap implications, as DeCastro, 31, was entering the last year of a five-year, $50 million contract extension he signed in 2016.

The Steelers will save the $8.75 million in salary that DeCastro was scheduled to earn this season, but the remaining portion of his cap hit ($5.5475 million) adds to the already large pile of dead money on the team’s 2021 salary cap.

As for player reaction to the move, one of DeCastro’s longtime linemates, now-retired left guard Ramon Foster, seems to be shocked by what happened.

Meanwhile, Steelers right tackle Zach Banner simply tweeted out the following:

David DeCastro’s Illustrious Steelers Career

During his nine-year run with the Steelers, DeCastro played in 125 games, starting all but one of those contests. He was voted AP first-team All-Pro twice (2015, 2017) and was also voted to six straight Pro Bowls (2015-2020). The only Steelers offensive linemen voted to more Pro Bowls during the course of their careers were:

Mike Webster (9)
Maurkice Pouncey (9)
Dermontti Dawson (7), and
Alan Faneca (7)

Webster and Dawson are Hall of Famers, and Faneca will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, with former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward serving as his presenter.

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