DeCastro settled in after frustrating rookie year

David DeCastro can finally relax.

DeCastro, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round pick in 2012,

stayed mostly quiet and kept to himself in training camp as a

rookie offensive lineman last year, but he is beginning to come out

of his shell during his second go-round at training camp.

”I definitely don’t feel like a rookie anymore,” DeCastro

said. ”I don’t have to get up and sing in the dining hall and do

stupid stuff like that, which is good. There are no more surprises.

It’s nice.”

DeCastro is certainly more comfortable this summer, not just

when it comes to football, but also living in the dorms and

navigating his way around campus at Saint Vincent College. The

change is evident in media sessions too, where the typically

no-nonsense DeCastro is livelier than ever, expanding on his often

succinct, to-the point responses.

”I think I’m just a little quiet at first once I get to know

people,” DeCastro said. ”It’s just kind of how I am. I’m not

going to open up at first. I kind of want to survey and get a feel

for things. I’m still not the most talkative, but I’m more

talkative than I was.”

Even his teammates noticed a difference from a year ago when

DeCastro first carried his straightforward, workman-like demeanor

through training camp last summer.

”David was a quiet guy,” offensive lineman Ramon Foster said.

”He didn’t say much and the fact that he’s acting up with us shows

he’s getting comfortable and that helps him do what he does best,

which is play football.”

That’s all the Steelers are concerned about.

DeCastro, the No. 24 overall pick from Stanford in 2012, cruised

through a promising breakout training camp as a rookie and was

projected to start at right guard until disaster struck during the

first quarter of the team’s third preseason game at Buffalo.

DeCastro suffered a torn medial collateral ligament, dislocated

kneecap, and partially torn patellar tendon in his right knee,

casting a black shadow on what appeared to be a bright rookie

season.

”It’s tough mentally,” DeCastro said. ”It’s a lot of

adversity to go through, but you learn a lot about yourself. You’re

still able to make improvements and learn techniques. It’s a

different game in the NFL and I learned a lot.”

Modified injured reserve rules implemented last season allowed

the Steelers to place DeCastro on an IR list that permitted him to

return after eight weeks, salvaging part of his rookie season.

DeCastro gradually worked his way back on special teams in his

NFL debut against San Diego in December. He made his first career

start at right guard the next week against Dallas, helping the

Steelers amass nearly 400 yards of offense. DeCastro followed it up

with starts in the final two games of the season against Cincinnati

and Cleveland.

”He would’ve been awesome last year if he wouldn’t have gotten

hurt,” Steelers’ center Maurkice Pouncey said. ”He fought back

through the injury, came back, and had a productive end to last

year.”

That in-game experience will go a long way toward helping

DeCastro take the next step in his second season. Teammates say

he’s taking better care of his body, putting in extra work, and

studying more film. It can only benefit an offensive line that is

young, but carries a high pedigree with four starters drafted in

the first or second round.

”Pretty much all around he’s improved overall and the game

slowed down for him,” said offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert.

”He’s looking confident and more comfortable with himself.”

And as DeCastro found out during his first training camp,

comfort level may be the most important factor for the second-year

offensive lineman.

”I really can’t put my finger on one big thing, but you feel a

lot more comfortable overall,” DeCastro said. ”People say the

little things make a big difference and it’s true. It’s cliche as

ever, but I feel a lot more comfortable than I did last year.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org