Pittsburgh Steelers right guard David DeCastro has been named by Bucky Brooks of NFL.com as the top candidate to be the Most Improved Offensive Lineman for 2013.
Most NFL players make the biggest strides in development during the offseason between Years 1 and 2. Part of the growth stems from a better understanding of the tempo and intensity of the pro game. Through valuable game experience, young players develop the instincts and awareness to excel.
In DeCastro\'s case, the epiphany occurred during a three-game run at the end of the regular season when he logged significant playing time as a starter. The 2012 first-rounder dominated at the point of attack, displaying the strength and power to move defenders off the ball. Additionally, DeCastro showed the balance, body control and lateral quickness to handle skilled pass rushers in isolated matchups. DeCastro frequently won on quick sets in pass protection, with his accurate strikes stopping rushers dead in their tracks. Overall, DeCastro\'s combination of sound technique, footwork and fundamentals solidified the Steelers\' interior offensive line, leading to more efficient play from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
DeCastro did well to just get himself back on the field after suffering the injury that he did during the preseason and if not for the new injured reserve rule that was instituted last season, his entire rookie season would have been wiped out completely.
While I firmly believe that DeCastro is indeed primed for a great 2013 season, Brooks\' praise of DeCastro\'s play in the final three games of the 2012 season might be just a little over the top. In DeCastro\'s debut against the Dallas Cowboys, he played well although he did allow a sack in that game. However, the Cowboys were without the services of starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff in that game, and their linebackers were also little banged up and without the services of Sean Lee.
In DeCastro\'s second start against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Stanford product had his hands full with defensive tackle Geno Atkins, and it resulted in him allowing two quarterback sacks and three quarterback pressures in the game.
DeCastro did rebound in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns; however, and while he wasn\'t dominant in that game, his play was certainly above the line.
DeCastro has worked hard this offseason and the experience that he gained late last season was invaluable as it helped him experience the speed of the game more than anything else. As long as he can stay healthy in 2013, he most certainly can become one of the premier interior linemen in the league and quite possibly earn his first of what we hope is several Pro Bowl and All-Pro designations.