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

good.”

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

clothes.

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

effective.

”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

big gains.

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

without him.

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

report.