Trai Turner Visit Raises Questions About Steelers’ David DeCastro

David DeCastro and Ben Roethlisberger

(Jamie Sabau/Getty Images Ben Roethlisberger greets David DeCastro before a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 21, 2020.

On Friday the Pittsburgh Steelers reportedly had five-time Pro Bowl right guard Trai Turner in for a visit. The visit raised more questions about Pittsburgh’s 31-year-old right guard, David DeCastro, who is entering his tenth season in the league—and the last year of his contract, which is scheduled to pay him a salary of $8.75 million in 2021.

The questions center around the fact that DeCastro did not appear for voluntary OTAs, and did not practice during the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp, which concluded on Thursday.

When Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked why DeCastro wasn’t practicing, he had a curious response, saying, “… If I thought injury circumstances or reasons why people were not participating were significant, I would share them with you….”

Soon afterward, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic reminded us that the media had the opportunity to talk to every Steelers starter at either OTAs or minicamp … except DeCastro.

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Is David DeCastro Healthy Enough to Play?

As for what’s wrong with DeCastro, one possibility is that he’s simply not healthy enough to participate in football-like activities.

Keep in mind that he suffered a knee injury in training camp last year, and subsequently had an oblique (abdominal) injury that caused him to miss three of the first five games of the 2020 season. DeCastro went on to have a subpar year, at least by his standards, earning a 64.1 grade from Pro Football Focus, driven down by a lowly 50.0 run blocking grade.

It’s all speculation at this point, but perhaps lingering health issues—or even an unreported offseason surgery—are keeping him off the field.

Does DeCastro Still Want to Play?

Another less likely possibility—but still one worth considering—is that DeCastro doesn’t have the same passion for football that he had in the past.

Keep in mind that several of his longtime linemates departed in the offseason, with center Maurkice Pouncey retiring in February and veteran left tackle Alejandro Villanueva (his carpool buddy) signing with the Baltimore Ravens in free agency. Might that be enough—along with the fact that he isn’t playing as well as he did in his prime—to consider retirement? For what it’s worth, DeCastro’s overall PFF grade has declined every year since he posted a grade of 90.0 in 2017, including a 71.1 in 2019 and 74.8 in 2018.

If DeCastro unexpectedly walks away from football it would have significant salary cap implications for the Steelers. He counts $14,297,500 against the salary cap in 2021 (7.7% of the team’s cap), this according to If for some reason he is not on the team this season, his absence would trigger a dead cap hit of $5,547,500.

DeCastro has been a member of the Steelers ever since the team made him its first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft (No. 24 overall) out of Stanford. He has been named to the Pro Bowl six times, earning first-team All-Pro honors twice (2015, 2017).

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