Contrary to popular belief, Steelers rookie guard David DeCastro did not have a poor game in the crushing defeat against the Bengals last Sunday. But for his critics, a couple of DeCastro's more obvious mistakes seem to have overshadowed everything else he did in the game. Early in the 1st Quarter and then again at the start of the 4th Quarter, DeCastro allowed pass rushing phenom Geno Atkins to beat him and sack Big Ben. But in case you hadn't noticed, Atkins has been having his way nearly all year with some of the best offensive linemen in the league. And if we can believe the Steeler injury report, DeCastro played at least a portion of this game with a tweaked hammy.
After carefully watching each and every offensive play of the entire game, I give DeCastro a not-too-shabby 87% grade. What's more, if you asked Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Pat Sims or Robert Geathers what they think of the new kid on the Steelers' OL, I seriously doubt they'd have anything but high praise for #66. For the better part of four quarters on Sunday, DeCastro took turns making each of these guys disappear on several plays.
Let's take a quick look at DeCastro's numbers from the Bengals game:
62 total offensive plays
54 excellent, good or adequate blocks
8 ineffective or poor blocks
= 87% Overall Grade
On a substantial number of snaps against the Bengals, DeCastro took his man entirely out of the play. Also, he was very quick and sharp on plays that required him to be the pulling guard. In fact, on a second-down play when Ben was sacked for a loss, DeCastro not only stuffed the bull rush of 335-lb. Pat Sims, but then sprinted back to almost pick off Peko right before he got the sack on Ben. But to those who saw only the end of this play, it appeared that DeCastro had been beaten by Peko. Actually, he was trying to bail out one of his line mates. Watch the replay and you'll see for yourself.
In the second half, with the exception of one play where Atkins beat him and got the sack, DeCastro essentially neutralized #97. But it was on running plays where DeCastro was most dominant. I counted only two running plays in the entire game where DeCastro failed to get an effective block. And if you take a close look at each play where our RBs were stuffed for little or no gain, you'll find that DeCastro was one of the few guys actually doing his job out there. But in most cases, the Bengals were stacking the line and simply were sending too many guys to block.
This represents the first time I've ever tracked an OL guy on every single play of an entire game. I did so because my impression of DeCastro in watching the game was far different than the negative comments I read after the game. If you've got the game on DVD, be my guest and repeat my little experiment with your focus on DeCastro. I can assure you that, far from questioning whether this guy will make the grade, you'll come away as excited as I am about his huge potential to quickly develop into a dominant NFL guard. There's little doubt in my mind that DeCastro can go toe-to-toe with any defensive lineman in the league, even while still recovering from a serious injury.