Atkins surprises - manhandles, bludgeons and destroys - a lot of people. This particular play came in DeCastro's second career start, exactly one NFL season worth of experience (16 starts) ago.
The learning process is a process in and of itself. Those added reps, that practice time, even the injuries and missed snaps because of them, contribute a stroke to the portrait. They add depth of character. They reveal pain as the tool necessary to learn to defeat the game's giants like Atkins.
"The jump from Year 1 to Year 2 is the biggest," DeCastro told Tribune Review reporter Alan Robinson. "Now the rest is kind of fine-tuning things. Just being a rookie is great. Now you can kind of understand the game and build on top of that. … Nothing's a surprise anymore."
DeCastro's presumed ascension to Pro Bowl status as the next great Steelers guard is sort of in line with Pirates rookie right fielder Gregory Polanco. DeCastro was given No. 66 for a reason - they wanted a return of Big Nasty, future Hall of Fame guard Alan Faneca. While Polanco's debut Tuesday was a little less than auspicious - 1-for-5, one strikeout - DeCastro's home debut didn't come until the aforementioned Bengals game in Week 16 of a mostly forgettable 2012 season.
Both appear poised to reach their manifest destinies, respectively. Less hysteria is brought toward DeCastro now, but his selection in the 2012 NFL Draft shut down the servers of other hack Steelers sites and had fans clamoring for months. The Steelers have had to suck badly the previous year to get a player as talented as DeCastro in the past. He was a high-level talent at a not-so-desired position, but the height of the talent captured the optimism of even ardently pessimistic fans.
Polanco appears to have much of the same going for the franchise after which the Steelers were initially named in 1933. Nevermind the comparisons to Clemente, or the touts of him being a better defensive version of Barry Bonds. Pittsburgh fans will tout their rookies as high as the Incline, and the excitement comes in watching them fulfill those expectations.
For DeCastro, the expectations are, in Year 3, he plays more than three games with center Maurkice Pouncey (one of the two has missed 28 of the team's last 32 starts), and leads the Great Rushing Revival in Pittsburgh, led ultimately by offensive line coach Mike Munchak and anchored by DeCastro and Pouncey and LeBackfield - Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. They'll run zone, they'll run power, there will be shades of Franco as well as a flash of Foster.
As Polanco ascends to his throne as The Next Big Prospect in Pittsburgh, DeCastro, the gentleman he is, happily releases his crown. DeCastro is here and now. And Steelers fans eagerly await his ascension into Pro Bowl territory.