Fresh start for Steelers guard DeCastro
Most players can't wait to leave behind the classroom once they move into the NFL. During his three months off from playing last season, Steelers right guard David DeCastro willingly returned to it.
Perhaps that's not surprising for someone who was an excellent student at Stanford, but DeCastro's voluminous studying had nothing to do with his college major of management science and engineering.
Rather, he helped teach himself how to become a reliable NFL lineman, with the help of former offensive line coach Sean Kugler and the other Steelers linemen.
While sitting out three months with a serious preseason knee injury, DeCastro carefully watched practice, watched game tape and, most of all, watched his teammates.
“The NFL is a lot different game than it is in college, just technique-wise, using your hands,” DeCastro said Tuesday as the Steelers began the second week of offseason practice. “There's stuff you pick up on and kind of teach yourself. A lot of guys already have that technique; you can see it in all the second- or third-year guys.”
The Steelers have plenty of those. Their projected starting offensive line of Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, DeCastro and Mike Adams averages 24 1⁄2 years. Only Foster (27) is older than 25, and three are 23.
“Pouncey has got his technique down, Ramon's got a technique down. So you take bits and pieces and see what you're doing,” the 6-foot-5, 315-pound DeCastro said. “I learned a lot and, to me, it's all instinct now. It's a whole different game, and I think I'm a lot more prepared for this season. ... It's almost like a fresh beginning.”
Nose tackle Steve McLendon can tell the difference in DeCastro from a year ago, when the former All-American and first-round draft pick was beginning his adjustment to the NFL.
“It's a great jump for him,” McLendon said. “He came in last year and I would tell him, ‘Hey, man, get your hands on me. This is a physical game. If you let somebody push you around, they're going to push you around every day.' ''
That doesn't happen much now to DeCastro, who hopes to take the experiences from the four games he played in December — three starts — and apply them to a full season.
“It wasn't like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can't do this,' ” DeCastro said. “The margin for error is much smaller in the NFL, and that's what you learn. You take one wrong step — you can get away with it in college, but you can't get away with it in the NFL. But it wasn't overwhelming at all.”
DeCastro is especially encouraged because there have been no issues with his right knee, which required surgery to repair a torn medial collateral ligament and dislocated kneecap.
“My knee's feeling great, I feel great,” DeCastro said. “I feel fast, I feel loose. I have no regrets about it (the injury layoff). It was a good learning experience.”