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Injured reserve rule could help DeCastro

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Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers first round pick David DeCastro is helped up after being injuried at Ralph Wilson Stadium Aug. 25, 2012.

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Friday, Aug. 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The Steelers received good news when the NFL announced a modification to its injured reserve rule, and even better news that rookie guard David DeCastro's knee surgery didn't turn up any surprises.

DeCastro had surgery performed on his right knee Wednesday, four days after tearing his medial collateral ligament and dislocating his knee cap in the first quarter of a preseason game against Buffalo.

“It was a successful surgery,” said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin following a 17-16 win over Carolina. “I haven't seen one of those surgeries that hasn't been succesful. We will let the dust settle and we will follow his progress.”

The Steelers were willing to keep a roster spot open until DeCastro, their first-round pick, was healthy enough to return, provided that his surgery went according to plan.

After Thursday's surprising change-of-heart agreement by the union and the league on modification of the IR rule, the Steelers won't have to keep a roster spot open for DeCastro if they choose to go that route.

Previously, any player placed on injured reserve was lost for the remainder of the season. Now, a player can be back practicing within six weeks or teams could wait until as late as the postseason.

The two sides finally came to terms six days before the start of the season, and Tomlin said that the organization has been in favor of the rule for a while.

“Yeah, we voted for it,” Tomlin said.

The new rule states:

• Only players with a “major injury” who are placed on injured reserve on Sept. 4, or thereafter during the season, will be eligible to be reactivated at a later time.

• A “major injury” is defined as one that renders the player unable to practice or play for at least six weeks (42 calendar days) from the date of injury.

• The player is eligible to return to practice if he has been on injured reserve for at least six weeks. He is eligible to return to the active roster if he has been on injured reserve for at least eight weeks.

• The player designated for injured reserve must be on the 53-man roster following finals cuts.

• Only one player is permitted to be placed on the list per season to come back later in the season and he must be designated that at the time he goes on IR.

For DeCastro, that would mean he would be eligible to practice Oct. 16 and play Nov. 4 against the New York Giants — 67 days after surgery.

It was unclear whether the Steelers would place DeCastro on injured reserve. The Steelers can use injured reserve at any time during the season, including the playoffs. They could decide to hold off on relegating a player to the list until later in the season. Fellow rookie Sean Spence could also be a candidate after suffering a “significant” knee injury late in the game against the Panthers.

“I think David will be back this year and he's intent on doing that,” offensive line coach Sean Kugler said.

Ramon Foster has replaced DeCastro at right guard.

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