David DeCastro Injury: Missing 'Three to Five Months' Creates Roster Dilemma

PITTSBURGH PA - JANUARY 23: Ramon Foster #73 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates their 24 to 19 win over the New York Jets in the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Pro Football Talk cited a source claiming the expectation for David DeCastro is his knee injury will keep him out for three to five months, which would essentially be late into November, or perhaps just healthy enough for the conference championship game.

But this isn't Hall of Fame CB Rod Woodson we're talking about here. It seems a stretch to keep a 22-year-old rookie on the roster due to the chance he may be available toward the end of the season.

It's interesting that news broke almost exactly three days from when DeCastro's knee gave out at Ralph Wilson Stadium that the NFLPA had rejected the league's proposal to allow the return of one player who was on IR to start the year by Week 8.

That would have almost certainly sealed DeCastro's placement on IR. As it is, the Steelers will have to make a few different but connected decisions.

Decide whether DeCastro can return healthy enough to contribute positively without risking any more further damage than what would be acceptable for a professional football player?

The results of any rehabilitation process is ultimately determined by the effort as well as the body of the person undergoing it. We hear the term "fast healer," and while it isn't likely a doctor would go on record saying a player is a "slow healer," if DeCastro is on the long side of the alleged 3-5 month recovery time, it seems wiser for the bigger picture to simply place him on IR now and make sure rehabilitation is done deliberately, carefully and with his long-term health at the top of the priority list.

Decide whether the Steelers are willing to essentially go to a 52-man roster for a bare minimum of 12 weeks, or, until at least mid-November.

It's a risky proposition, to put it mildly. One possibility would be to go with two quarterbacks, and that seems the most likely proposition. The 3QB is the one player on the roster who won't be used in any way on the field, and probably gets about as many snaps as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin does.

That doesn't mean the position doesn't have value, though. Game preparation includes much more than just working on the plays entered in the game plan for the upcoming week. It's film study, meetings and communication with other quarterbacks, position coaches, the coordinator and the head coach. Having another set of experienced eyes (read: Batch, Charlie) will only help starter Ben Roethlisberger be prepared for the upcoming game.

Evaluate their current offensive line depth, and determine whether it'll be strong enough over a full season, or whether it's simply good enough to tread water until DeCastro might be able to return.

Ramon Foster is an experienced veteran, actually having been the steadiest Steelers offensive linemen over the last two seasons. "Steady," meaning, he hasn't left the starting lineup due to injury. He was noticeably improved in his first three preseason games, and while he may not have DeCastro's potential, the drop-off between Foster right now and an inexperienced DeCastro is not going to be significant.

The issue is the players behind Foster. Veteran Doug Legursky is one of them, and he also backs up left guard and center - two positions in which injuries have occurred frequently the last two seasons. After Legursky is probably Trai Essex, who was most likely on the bubble until DeCastro's injury.

Outside of Legursky and Essex, it's rookies Kelvin Beachum and Ryan Lee, two players who weren't likely to make the roster before the injury. Beachum did not play well in the team's first two preseason games, but looked pretty solid against Buffalo in the third game. Lee has generated some buzz in practice, and seemed more like a practice squad signing with intrigue for next season.

Short of signing a veteran, or working a back-up tackle to play guard in a pinch, it doesn't look like the Steelers would have adequate depth to cover DeCastro internally right now.

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