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Steelers opt for Stanford guard in 1st round

| Thursday, April 26, 2012, 10:34 p.m.
FOR USE AS DESIRED WITH NFL DRAFT STORIES - FILE - In this March 22, 2012, file photo, Stanford guard David DeCastro laughs as he warms up during Stanford's NFL football pro day on the Stanford University campus in Stanford, Calif. DeCastro is a top prospect in the upcoming NFL football draft.(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
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STANFORD, CA - Saturday, Sept. 3, 2010: Stanford defeated San Jose State 57-3 at Stanford Stadium.
Rob Ericson/Stanford Athletics
David DeCastro during play against USC at the LA Coliseum in Los Angeles. Stanford won in triple overtime, 56 -48, and extended its winning streak to 16 games. NFL
David Gonzales
David DeCastro of the Stanford Cardinal during Stanford's 34-28 loss to the California Golden Bears on November 21, 2009 at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, California. NFL
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Stanford guard David DeCastro waits during Stanford's NFL football pro day March 22, 2012. The Steelers selected DeCastro in the first round of Thursday's NFL Draft. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

The Steelers didn't just address their offensive line Thursday night when they took Stanford's David DeCastro with the 24th overall pick of the NFL Draft.

They added the player considered the best guard in the draft as well as one of its safest players.

“This kid's an exceptional player,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. “Everything you could ask for in a football player, this kid encompasses.”

The Steelers patiently waited as DeCastro, who had been projected as a top-15 pick, fell to them. They passed on a number of players who could have helped them at other positions of need, including Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

“I'm just thankful I'm going to a great team,“ DeCastro said.

Colbert said DeCastro was one of seven to 10 prospects the Steelers had identified as “sure-fire” NFL players. Colbert added that DeCastro was one of “several” players the Steelers would have considered trading up to get.

DeCastro bolsters the interior of the Steelers' offensive line and should challenge for a starting job in his first season. Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster, both former undrafted free agents, are the incumbents at left and right guard, respectively.

“He's a right guard,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, “but we're going to put our best men on the field.”

The Steelers have taken an offensive lineman with two of their past three first-round picks, as they selected Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey 18th overall in 2010. They used their second-round pick last year on Marcus Gilbert, who started 14 games at right tackle.

The Steelers are slated to make two more picks tonight when the NFL Draft resumes. They have one pick in the second round (No. 56 overall) and another in the third (No. 86).

DeCastro is the first guard the Steelers have taken in the first round since Kendall Simmons in 2002, and the 6-foot-5, 316-pounder has drawn comparisons to former perennial All-Pro Alan Faneca.

The Steelers have taken nine offensive linemen since 2007. That is the position they have addressed the most since Tomlin's first season as head coach.

DeCastro started all 39 games he played at right guard, and he was one of the top protectors of Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick. He finished his career with 316 knockdowns and 68 touchdown-resulting blocks.

His consistency grade of 96.88 percent last season was the highest in Pac-12 history, and that statistic has been tracked since 1985. DeCastro had another season of eligibility at Stanford, but he graduated in four years with a degree in management, science and engineering.

Colbert and Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler worked out DeCastro at Stanford's Pro Day.

Colbert said DeCastro performed so well during that workout that he and Kugler figured the Steelers would never have a chance at drafting him.

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

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