On Thursday afternoon the Pittsburgh Steelers announced the release of two-time first-team All-Pro David DeCastro, who had been a fixture on the team’s offensive line ever since the organization made him its first-round pick in 2012 (No. 24 overall).
Just hours later the team signed his apparent replacement, Trai Turner, this according to ESPN senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter, via his source, Drew Rosenhaus.
The NFL world learned that the Steelers were considering Turner at the end of last week, when Pittsburgh had him in for a visit—a visit that prompted observers to begin questioning David DeCastro’s status.
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What are the Steelers Getting in Trai Turner?
The question now is which Trai Turner the Steelers are going to see come training camp and the 2021 season. Will they be getting the 2014 third-round pick who was named to five straight Pro Bowls between 2015-19 and appeared in at least 13 games every year between 2014 and 2019?
Or will they be getting the player that was traded away by the team the drafted him (the Carolina Panthers), and went on to appear in just nine games for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020, hindered by a groin injury that contributed to him being ranked as the second-worst guard in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, with an absolutely putrid 34.8 rating?
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The Offensive Line Equivalent of an Overnight Makeover
Regardless, Pittsburgh’s offensive line is in the midst of what amounts to an overnight makeover. Fourth-year player Chuks Okorafor is “penciled in” at left tackle after making 15 starts at right tackle last season, while second-year man Kevin Dotson is the presumed starter at left guard. That leaves Turner (most likely), as the new starter at right guard, with Zach Banner (who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered last September) as the still unproven starter at right tackle. Meanwhile, the center position remains up for grabs, a competition between: veteran B.J. Finney (who didn’t play a single snap last season); last year’s backup J.C. Hassenauer; and rookie third-round pick Kendrick Green (Illinois), who as of today remains unsigned—the team’s only unsigned draft choice.
All that change probably isn’t particularly comforting to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is entering his 18th and probably last season in the NFL. Nor is it the ideal introduction to the league for rookie running back Najee Harris, who will be replacing last year’s RB1, James Conner, who signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals in free agency and recently predicted he will be one-half of “one of the best” running back tandems in the league.
At least the Steelers get to open training camp early (circa July 21) and will play an extra preseason game, by virtue of being scheduled to take on the Dallas Cowboys in the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on August 5.