Pittsburgh Steelers right guard David DeCastro will make just the sixth start of his young career Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, and it will mark the second time that he faces defensive tackle Geno Atkins in what figures to be a key matchup to watch in the game.
In the Week 16 meeting last year, Atkins certainly got the best of the Steelers first-round draft pick, who allowed two total sacks and three hurries in just his second NFL start. DeCastro didn’t fair much better in the run blocking department either against Atkins, who went on to be named a First-Team All-Pro at the end of the season.
DeCastro not only has the chore of dealing with Atkins Monday night, he must also likely deal with working beside a new center as well. Several reports indicate that Fernando Velasco, who was signed this past Monday to replace the injured Maurkice Pouncey, will start at center. The two will have to gel together quickly when it comes to twist, stunts and blitzes by the Bengals defensive front or else both will have a long night.
Back in early July, NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks named DeCastro as his top candidate to be the Most Improved Offensive Lineman for 2013. If that is to come to fruition, DeCastro will need to show a marked improvement Monday night against Atkins, who he figures to face several more times over the course of his career.