By Matthew Marczi
As I pointed out yesterday, second-year starting offensive guard David DeCastro had a rough game against the front four of the Detroit Lions in what was probably his worst game of the season.
He suffered an ankle injury four games ago that caused him to miss the Steelers’ match-up against the New England Patriots. Prior to the injury, it really looked as though DeCastro was hitting his stride, stringing together several quality games in a row before exiting the game in Oakland.
Since his return, he has been slow to get back into form. While he handled himself reasonably well from a pass protection standpoint, he—and the rest of the offensive line—could hardly get anything done on the ground.
It is unclear to me how much of it is the injury or how much it is a possible regression to a mean, but the Steelers will need DeCastro to be playing at the high level he was starting a reach a few weeks ago. Whether or not it happens, it is certainly a feasible proposition, as even these glimpses from the last game show.
Ndamukong Suh was not ready for DeCastro on the first play of the game. With the help of a chip from Marcus Gilbert, DeCastro drove the defensive tackle well off the ball, helping to open a big hole for Le’Veon Bell, who went for 13 yards.
There were a few other times during the game that DeCastro was able to get underneath Suh to move him around and control him in the running game, though they were somewhat few and far between, and did not guarantee success.
Even on the Steelers’ game-winning drive, it started off with a strong block by DeCastro on Suh, driving him and holding him out of the hole. Because the play took so long to develop and the Lions were playing the run close to the line, the hole closed quickly for Bell as he was dropped for no gain.
Even though he struggled overall in pass protection despite the typically quick passes on the day, he still showed some resilience. For example, he lost the hands battle to Suh off the snap, but he won the war by recovering and pushing him backward.
Although it forced Ben Roethlisberger to step up in the pocket, the recovery itself was good, and the play ended up in a touchdown. The Steelers had better hope that DeCastro looks more like this today than like this.