DeCastro’s knee injury overshadows Steelers’ win
The Pittsburgh Steelers spent much of the offseason trying to
build an offensive line that could keep franchise quarterback Ben
Roethlisberger upright – and healthy – for an entire year.
In one squeamish sequence on Saturday night, the Steelers were
forced to move on to Plan B.
Pittsburgh lost rookie guard David DeCastro to a gruesome right
knee injury in the first quarter of an otherwise dominant 38-7
preseason win over the Buffalo Bills. The 24th overall pick in
April’s NFL Draft was carted off the field with what coach Mike
Tomlin termed a ”potentially severe” injury.
DeCastro underwent an MRI on Sunday and while the team declined
comment, it was obvious to his teammates he will be gone for an
extended period of time.
”He was going to start for us,” linebacker Lawrence Timmons
said. ”I don’t know the outcome. It doesn’t sound like it’s
ESPN reported DeCastro dislocated his kneecap and tore his
medial collateral ligament but did not tear his anterior cruciate
ligament, which would have ended his season.
The Steelers could place DeCastro on injured reserve – shelving
him for the year – or see how his knee responds to treatment.
Either way, he’ll be out for the foreseeable future.
It’s a major blow to a unit that Pittsburgh viewed as an issue
after Roethlisberger hobbled his way through the final month of the
2011 season behind a line that struggled protecting him. The
Steelers gave up 42 sacks – tied for ninth-most in the league – and
Roethlisberger dealt with a series of health issues to his left leg
after spraining his foot in a loss to Houston in early October.
DeCastro and fellow rookie Mike Adams – taken in the second
round – were supposed to join All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey and
second-year tackle Marcus Gilbert as the core of one of the
youngest and most highly touted offensive lines in the league.
Instead, Adams is going through some very public growing pains and
DeCastro – an All-American at Stanford while blocking for
quarterback Andrew Luck – will spend an indefinite period in street
Pittsburgh will likely turn to veteran Ramon Foster to fill in
at guard. It’s a return to the patchwork effort the Steelers have
used in the past with mixed results.
A year ago, Max Starks was signed off the street a month into
the season to try and hold things together. He’s at it again this
season, signing just before training camp as insurance in case
Adams had trouble. Starks, who underwent offseason knee surgery,
played well while protecting Roethlisberger’s blind side against
the Bills and is optimistic even with DeCastro out the line will be
”We’ve been through this before. It’s not like this is
something brand new and you’ve had the same five starters for three
years and nobody’s had any reps,” Starks said. ”Our group is used
to turnover and position flexibility.”
The line will need it with the season opener against Denver two
weeks away in a rematch of the Broncos’ overtime upset in the
wild-card round of last season’s playoffs.
The Steelers have insisted they’ve moved on, though there
appeared to be a bit of a hangover by the starters during the first
two preseason games. The offense, in the midst of a sea change
under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, finally got on track
against Buffalo even with DeCastro sidelined.
Roethlisberger completed 17 of 24 passes for 169 yards and a
touchdown, the majority of the yards coming on a brilliant 98-yard
drive in the final 2 minutes of the half. The quarterback missed on
just one of eight pass attempts during that drive, which culminated
in a 6-yard scoring strike to Antonio Brown.
”I just started calling my own plays,” Roethlisberger. ”We
went no huddle and up-tempo and we were throwing the ball.”
And throwing it downfield. Pittsburgh spent the first two
preseason games working exclusively on the short passing game.
Though the Steelers completed 57-yard touchdown passes in both
games, they were nothing more than long handoffs that turned into
A 33-yard pass to running back Jonathan Dwyer kick-started the
long drive after a penalty backed the Steelers up to their own
1-yard line. Brown, a third-year wideout, was arguably
Roethlisberger’s favorite target at the end of last season and he
has thrived in Mike Wallace’s absence.
Wallace, a Pro Bowler last year, is a restricted free agent who
has yet to sign his one-year tender. He’s expected to return
sometime this week, though he’ll find himself playing catch-up on
an offense that showed against the Bills it could move the ball
Still, Pittsburgh is eager to have one of the game’s fastest
receivers back in the fold. Though now the goal will be making sure
Roethlisberger has enough time in the pocket to chuck it downfield
to him. It’s something the Steelers insist they can do no matter
who is lining up in front of – and alongside – Roethlisberger.
”This isn’t everything,” said backup quarterback Byron
Leftwich, who threw for a pair of scores on Saturday. ”We still
haven’t game-planned for anybody. We’re just calling more plays
than we did the first two games. We gave guys more opportunities to
make plays and they did their thing.”
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo contributed to this