If healthy all year, David DeCastro might have been a Pro Bowl guard. He was that impressive at times in his debut. However, one mistake cost the Steelers a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
I remember watching the Underwear Olympics (NFL Combine) earlier this year, and dreaming what it would be like if the Steelers would somehow be able to trade up to acquire him. DeCastro has the ultimate skill set: great technique, fantastic athleticism, and brute strength. Combine with that every intangible that you can think of, and you have yourself a building block of the future. I remember something Rebecca Rollet wrote about him a little while back. I can't remember the exact details, but DeCastro was admonishing his teammates for excessive celebration or something of the such.
Much has been written concerning the perceived lack of leadership, focus, or whatever on this year's team. Maybe those perceptions are correct. But maybe the Steelers also realize that best way end those perceptions and to transition from the past into the now is to ride the talents of the rookie from Stanford. Maybe that's why those chose to run right behind him on 1st and goal from the one yard line:
Before I continue to extol the virtues of DeCastro, let me heap some praise on some others. Specifically, Maurkice Pouncey, and Will Johnson. Pouncey knows where the play is going, and he knows that the defender is just going to try to submarine him. Therefore, he uses his excellent quickness to shield the blocker from the play, and not allow his penetration to be a detriment to the play. Johnson takes advantage of simple physics, and hopefully helps destroy one of the more stupid traditions in football: putting fat guys in the backfield to block. Honestly, has it ever worked consistently? It normally doesn't because they are too slow. Johnson is fast, and because force is equal to mass times acceleration, he is able to effectively block the linebacker even though he is not 260 pounds.
Also, notice the nice job Todd Haley does with the scheme. He releases Kelvin Beachum to the linebacker and allows the defensive tackle to be wham blocked by David Paulson. Look for the Steelers to take advantage of this motion in a future goal line situation and hit Paulson with a play action touchdown pass.
No one is beginning to make a bust of Marcus Spears in the Hall of Fame, but Dallas thought enough of him to give him a 19.2 million dollar extension in 2011. To appreciate the level of ass-kickedness this is, think back to the GIF of the first Baltimore game. Remember how Cam Heyward destroyed Marshal Yanda, who was also getting help from the tackle, on a short yardage play? Spears tries to lock out Decastro so he can help in B gap, but he cannot. He has not choice but to try release outside of Decastro, thus effectively taking himself out of the play.
First and goal. Pivotal moment in the game. Let's run directly behind the guy who hasn't played in a real football game in almost a year. Great decision.
Enough joy; time to bring the pain:
Because Behind the Steel Curtain has such a loyal and intelligent following, and because I abhor repeating myself, I won't dip into the intricacies of slide protection. Needless to say, Decastro should've blocked the defensive tackle, Pouncey the linebacker in frontside A gap, Ramon Foster the linebacker in backside A gap, Max Starks the defensive tackle, and Jon Dwyer the safety blitzing off the edge.
Pouncey anticipates the twist and waits for the linebacker to come to him. Foster immediately looks to his right because he knows it is a full slide. They have the stunt blocked. If DeCastro blocks the defensive tackle, it is a touchdown because Haley makes a great call. Ben must have forgot to mention that post game. Anyways, the Cowboys, who are in man, totally bite on the fake screen to Mike Wallace.
Antonio Brown acts like he is blocking for a second, and then releases right past the guy that is supposed to be covering. The safety covering Heath Miller is standing flat footed; anticipating the screen to Wallace. He has some depth between him and Miller, but Heath is running full speed.
If you DVR'd the game, and you into watching things that may cause you to become physically ill, watch the replay of the sack from behind the offensive line. No one is within 20 yards of Brown. It might be our easiest touchdown of the year. I can't remember how many time outs the Cowboys had, but Brown was so wide open he could of knelt at the one yard line, forced the Cowboys to burn their timeouts while the Steelers kneeled down three more times, and Sean Suisham could've kicked the game winning field goal as time expired.
What, you think Brown wouldn't have had the presence of mind to do such? Such little faith.
So, which one of these two plays do you think DeCastro is dwelling on more this week? Because of this play, Decastro is probably bringing a level of preparedness and attention to detail that epitomizes what it means to be a professional football player. Hopefully, it is only a matter of time before he starts demanding it from all of his teammates also.
Am I reading too much into this? Maybe. But the Steelers didn't run a wide play on the goal line. They didn't have DeCastro double team and pull Foster around. They didn't throw play action. They ran, literally, ran behind his butt. And they were successful. I put a lot of stock into that decision. Is anyone else not surprised that the Steelers put Willie Colon on IR after watching DeCastro perform this week?
Fiinally, who else is looking forward to watching DeCastro and Mike Adams play together against the Cincinnati Bengals? A good offensive line has a bigger impact on the game than any other positional group with the exception of the quarterback. A good offensive line helps the defense by limiting the touches of the opposing offense. A good offensive line helps special teams because the lack of 3 and outs helps protect field position. A good offensive line helps an offensive coordinator stay on schedule and a quarterback stay in rhythm. The physicality of a good offensive line permeates every part of the team.
Bring on the Bengals.