Three-Play Sequence Highlights David DeCastro’s Growth In Pass Protection

By Matthew Marczi

Although it ultimately sputtered out thanks to a missed field goal courtesy of Shaun Suisham and his former holder, Zoltan Mesko, the final drive of the first half was a productive one for the Pittsburgh Steelers in one respect: it provided a microscopic look into the macroscopic growth that guard David DeCastro has made in pass protection in his second season.

The first three plays of the drive, specifically, highlight the variety of tools he possesses that lends itself to the prediction that he is still on the rise with respect to being a strong pass protector to complement his quality run-blocking.

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The drive began with a fine 21-yard completion by Antonio Brown to help get the chains moving. Although the ball was out relatively quickly by Ben Roethlisberger’s standards, the Oakland Raiders here ran a tackle-end stunt that has seriously been problematic for the offensive line this season.

To DeCastro’s credit—and Marcus Gilbert’s—the line picked up the stunt without a hitch and helped get the play off smoothly. Perhaps some credit is due to offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, Jr., who has helped turn around the line’s mental miscues from earlier in the year, particularly on the tackle-end stunt. DeCastro also did a fine job of handling the stunt on the fourth play of the drive.

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Here on the second play of the drive, however, DeCastro is faced with the much simpler, yet no less difficult task, of base-blocking a defensive tackle in isolation. Although the play ends in a throwaway, the strength and command that DeCastro showed in handling the block here is a testament to how much he has grown from the beginning of the year.

I believe the most visible difference in his play from the beginning of the year to now is the physicality with which he plays, and this is surely in no small part due to him playing with greater assurance of the offense and confidence in his abilities.

After the play, the man he was blocking, Daniel Muir, took liberties with his quarterback by pulling him down despite the ball being well out of his hands, and DeCastro joined in with his fellow linemen in protecting Roethlisberger.

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Finally, one play later, DeCastro got a chance to display his skills on the move on a screen pass to Felix Jones. My personal favorite part of this play is that DeCastro ripped Muir to the ground without holding before leaking out to get in front of a linebacker. DeCastro’s second-level block here gave Jones the space necessary to get the first down.

In short, in the span of just three plays, we see DeCastro displaying the intelligence and awareness to pick up stunts, the strength and stamina to stalemate a defensive tackle on his own in pass protection, and then the athleticism and vision to get out in front of a screen to block downfield. While most of DeCastro’ praise early on has been for his run-blocking—which is admittedly more noticeable when successful—if he continues to string together series such as this one, he should be equally known for his skills in the passing game as well.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Jason

    I have to admit I was beginning to think this guy might simply be overmatched at this level but I’m glad to be proven wrong. He seems to improve every week. If he can stay healthy the sky is the limit.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Mcclendon I remember told Decastro last year to start using his hands more in training camp. You can really see when Decastro gets his hands on someone he moves them.

  • Eric

    Despite some injury setbacks, DeCastro is starting to perform ac a first rounder.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I think there is an important lesson to remember here. Last year DeCastro said in an interview (paraphrasing) he felt out-matched “physically”.

    Sometimes we as fans expect these 22 year old kids to come and dominate grown men from day one. That is not realistic in most cases. Player development takes time and patience. And a lot of these kids don’t reach their peak strength until 25-28 years old. Look at Brett Keisel.

    I would bet Pouncey follows a similar pattern. I think we’ll see him show more actual physical strength his next four years than he did his first four years.

    That is the problem with drafting a bunch of young OL early and expecting that to fix your problems. What we really need is a couple of quality veteran FA’s to mix in with the young guys. And they don’t have to be super expensive elite OL either. We see how stout Velasco looks at age 28. A few years ago we see how strong Flozell Adams looked at age 34.

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    He is getting scary good

  • sean mcmartin

    You hit it on the head,,They got very Lucky with Velasco. don’t even hear his name called, which is good for o-line.
    They need a good or decent FA.. It can. be done. Reload this team before Ben is done…

  • RyanW

    Funny how many of the people who comment on this and other sites were calling Decastro a bust just a few weeks ago. Many forget he missed nearly the entire year last year. As far as actual game experience hes technically still a rookie. Pouncey being a pro bowler right out the gate was an exception not the rule. Same goes with the other olineman they are all still young and still developing. Quit being so quick to label someone a bust after only 2 or even 3 years. Timmons is arguably the best player on defense now and it took him 4 years before he really broke out.

  • Jim McCarley

    I think this OL will be much better next season……Pouncey back, keep the new center as a backup or maybe a guard and draft another left tackle…..first rounder? I know they have spent a lot of draft picks on OL recently but they have to keep Ben upright and every offensive play starts up front. I just wonder how many they will be able to keep with their second contract comes up?

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    I have always been of the opinion that when drafting offensive lineman, they should always be for the most part, 4or 5 year seniors, which would put them at age 22-23, good ol men can play very well into their mid thirties and be effective, the early out are more often than not projects, that is why all things being equal, if we take an ot number 1 next draft, I hope it is Taylor Lewan.