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Steelers will not put DeCastro on injured reserve

| Monday, Aug. 27, 2012, 7:34 p.m.
Steelers rookie guard David DeCastro is carted off the field during Saturday's preseason game against the Bills. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

Barring any unforeseen complications from knee surgery scheduled for Wednesday, David DeCastro will not be placed on injured reserve as the Steelers are holding out hope that the rookie first-round pick will be ready to return for the second half of the season.

DeCastro reportedly suffered a torn medial collateral ligament, a dislocated kneecap and damage to his patellar tendon when his right leg buckled underneath him during the second series of Saturday's preseason game against Buffalo.

“Fortunately, he's not done for the year,” Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler told Trib Total Media. “It is going to be a long comeback for him, but just the fact that it wasn't something devastating that ended his year (is positive.)”

Kugler said he isn't sure when DeCastro will be healthy enough to return, but the Steelers are willing to go with an even more limited roster in the interim to afford DeCastro the opportunity to return this season.

The team removed running back Rashard Mendenhall for the physically unable to perform list Aug. 17, even though he likely won't be ready for game action until well into the regular season. Teams are permitted to carry 53 players on the roster, with Mendenhall and DeCastro counting against that number.

“I think David will be back this year, and he's intent on doing that; I know that,” Kugler said.

Dr. James Bradley will perform the surgery on DeCastro.

The time frame of recovery varies depending on the severity of the kneecap dislocation, according to orthopedic surgeon and the Director of Medical University of South Carolina Sports Medicine Dr. David Geier.

“What they are going to look at is the ligament on the inside of the knee that holds the kneecap in place,” Geier said. “He could've knocked off a piece of bone or cartilage when that kneecap came out of place.”

DeCastro was two weeks away from becoming just the fourth Steelers rookie offensive lineman to begin the season as a starter on the offensive line, joining Tom Ricketts (1989), Marvel Smith (2000) and Maurkice Pouncey (2010).

DeCastro had been running with the first team at right guard since the second week of training camp.

“He was really making unbelievable progress,” Kugler said. “I was comfortable with him being in there with the ones. He was going to be our starting right guard.”

The Steelers will move forward with Ramon Foster — a fourth-year player who has started 26 of the past 29 games (including playoffs) at guard.

“I trust Ramon more than anybody else,” Kugler said.

Still, there was a sense of deflation with the injury to DeCastro.

“The guy is injured and you feel sorry for him on a personal level, professionally,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

“We understand this is as much a part of the game as blocking and tackling, so we move on.”

DeCastro was seen walking out of the team facility on crutches and with a balky brace on his right knee. DeCastro said he attended a team meeting during the morning but refused any other comment.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com.

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