By Matthew Marczi
Second-year guard David DeCastro was hitting his stride entering the Oakland Raiders game earlier this season when he suffered an ankle injury, forcing him to miss the following game against the New England Patriots.
When he returned to play against the Buffalo Bills, he did not quite look the same, and if anything, his performance against the front four of the Detroit Lions was a step even further in the wrong direction.
As was somewhat of a theme for the Steelers this week, however, DeCastro rediscovered some of that performance against the elixir that is the Cleveland Browns.
He helped open up a crease for running back Le’Veon Bell on just the third play of the game for a nice pickup, blocking two people in the process. He started off on a double team of Ahtyba Rubin and got just enough of him to allow Bell to squeeze around him while he went on the pick up safety T.J. Ward.
Toward the beginning of the second quarter, the Steelers were backed up at their own three-yard line. Last week, in the same situation, the offensive line struggled against the Lions’ front and only managed one yard on two carries before Ben Roethlisberger bailed them out on a pass to Antonio Brown under duress.
This week was different. On first down, DeCastro pushed nose tackle Ishmaa'ily Kitchen all the way down the line, which gave Bell a pathway to hit despite Rubin slowly working his way over to close the gap and Mike Adams spilling to the ground in front of his feet.
After Troy Polamalu forced and recovered a fumble just before halftime, the Steelers got the ball close to midfield and called a run on first down. DeCastro sealed off John Hughes and Bell squeezed between him and Marcus Gilbert to start off the drive with a 12-yard gain.
Later, in the fourth quarter as Pittsburgh switch gears into clock-killing mode by sticking with the ground game, DeCastro—with the help of Fernando Velasco—pushed Phil Taylor about seven yards upfield, and Bell just followed behind in order to gain whatever he could as the perimeter defenders closed in around him.
DeCastro certainly looked more as he did prior to the injury against some stiff competition, such as Rubin and Taylor. Hopefully that means that will continue as long as he stays healthy.