In the weeks and months leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft, the general consensus among people in the know (or at least in the opinion) was that the Steelers were going to use the 24th pick in the first round to select inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower from Alabama.
With the departing James Farrior, Hightower would be a natural choice to eventually step in and take over the role as quarterback of the defense.
Inside linebacker was obviously a need, and why not go with Hightower? He's a good character guy, and a fairly safe pick despite the concern over his major knee injury from a few years back.
However, the offensive line was also a major need for the Steelers going into this year's draft (specifically guard), and there was some talk of maybe going with Cordy Glenn of Georgia or Kevin Zeitler of Wisconsin. They were among the top ranked guards in this year's crop, but they weren't David DeCastro from Stanford. He was the highest ranked guard, and as Neal Coolong suggests, maybe one the best overall prospects in the entire draft. He was projected to go in the top 10 or 15, no way would the Steelers have a shot at him, right?
Every year, there seems to be a few things that throw the draft universe off kilter a bit. Last night was no exception. In at least a few mock drafts that I saw, DeCastro was projected to go 11th to the Kansas City Chiefs. However, instead of going with the can't miss guard, the Chiefs went with the work-out darling and selected nose tackle Dontari Poe with the 11th pick. I'll give them that. Nose tackle's are at a premium in today's 3/4 heavy NFL, and Poe's raw potential is just too enticing to pass up.
Surely, DeCastro wouldn't last much beyond the 15th pick in the first round, though, right? Well, thanks to the Seattle Seahawks, who became the winners of this year's "Whoa, Didn't See That Coming/What the Hell Were They Thinking?" award after selecting troubled defense end Bruce Irvin out of West Virginia, DeCastro made it past the mid-way point of the first round, and he just kept slipping and slipping.
He slipped by the Cleveland Browns, who had the 22nd pick and selected a 28 year old quarterback, instead.
DeCastro slipped by the Lions at 23, who went with an offensive lineman, but it was tackle Riley Reiff out of Iowa.
Now the Steelers found themselves in the enviable position of having the pick of the litter.
I don't know what the Steelers were thinking the past few weeks, and I don't know who was the highest ranked player on their board. Maybe Hightower was the man they had in mind up until the very end, but there was just no passing on DeCastro.
As the title suggests, it isn't often that the best player available and a chance to fill a major need come together as perfectly as it did last night for Pittsburgh. The Steelers have had a very high success rate with their first round picks under gm Kevin Colbert.
We're obviously at least a few years away from knowing this for sure, but the selection of DeCastro should go a long way towards ensuring that the success rate continues to flourish.
Thank you, crazy draft universe.