Steelers rookie DeCastro slowly opens up
At some point during nearly every NFL player's rookie season, there is a moment of realization that ultimately defines a career.
For some, it's understanding that shutting down that defensive end from East Carolina was infinitely easier than containing Terrell Suggs. That the tackles they broke in college are tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the everybody-is-good NFL. That the degree they once considered a nicety but not a necessity might be required after all.
These are the guys that don't make it.
For the fortunate ones, the game slows down, the hits suddenly don't seem as hard, the playbook isn't as indecipherable as it once was. Right about then, they correctly perceive they will have an NFL career that is measured in seasons, not just in weeks.
These are the David DeCastros of the NFL.
DeCastro, the right guard who will become — barring injury — only the fourth rookie lineman to start a Pittsburgh season opener, isn't about to proclaim he has arrived or that his transition from Stanford to the Steelers is complete. Then again, arguably the quietest player in the locker room doesn't proclaim much at all.
“When I was playing beside him, I was like, ‘Am I talking too much to you?' He said, ‘No, no you're fine, it's me, I'm just quiet,' ” Ramon Foster said Wednesday. “That's just him. You can't get a bead on him.”
Even if offensive line coach Sean Kugler thinks he has.
“He doesn't make mistakes, he's physical and he understands the game,” Kugler said. “He has made drastic improvements, and I think that's what he is going to be all about.”
DeCastro's speak-when-spoken-to demeanor was misread early on by some as being confusion, but his play in the first two preseason games has quieted that talk.
“His technique has gotten a lot better, and his double-team blocks (are impressive),” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “He's finishing, man, you can see it. He's driving guys to the ground and running down the field whenever we have long runs. It's exciting to watch.”
Even if the 6-foot-5, 316-pound DeCastro manages to hide any excitement. He is businesslike at all times, even during the sometimes lively position meetings in which his fellow linemen often must coax him to open up.
“It's a great group of guys,” DeCastro said.
For DeCastro, this is a virtual monologue.
Asked if he feels any more comfortable now than he did when camp opened nearly a month ago, DeCastro replied, “It's going all right. … It's just a process getting there. I'm sure I'll get more comfortable every day.”
Left tackle Max Starks believes DeCastro is close to being there already, even though a truly accurate assessment of the rookie's progression can't be made until the regular season arrives in 2½ weeks.
“He's a very intelligent kid, and he's also a very physical individual,” Starks said. “Now that everything has slowed down for him, I think he's starting to play a lot more settled. Therefore, he's allowed to be more physical because he's not having to think as much.”
Not that thinking has ever been a problem for a student who had a 4.06 grade-point average in high school and was a management, science and engineering major at Stanford.
“I've got to give it to him. He's been a pro about everything; he knows the book,” Foster said, referring to the playbook. “The physical part will come. It's a longer season, and I'm sure he'll handle it well. Most rookies have a wall, but I think he's a unique guy and I honestly don't think he'll hit it.”
What Foster likes is that DeCastro is the kind of “road grader” that all good running backs and quarterbacks seem to have in front of them — a player who, despite his size, possesses good feet, good hands and excellent flexibility.
“He's going really fast,” Foster said.
And, to Kugler, it's in the right direction.
“I don't expect to look back when it comes to David DeCastro,” he said.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.