The NFL and the Player's Union came to an agreement Thursday allowing teams to remove one player previously placed on injured-reserve during the season, provided that player is added to the IR after 4 p.m. ET Sept. 4, and that player has suffered a "major injury," in the words of the rule.
While it isn't clear right now how a "major injury" will be defined, what is clear is Steelers' RG David DeCastro suffered one to his knee in Pittsburgh's Preseason Week 3 win over Buffalo, and he has not yet been placed on the IR.
Judging now by the clause of the new rule stating the player must be placed on the IR on or after Sept. 4, the Steelers knew the smarter course of action was to wait, even if that meant keeping DeCastro on the active roster to start the season.
Because he hasn't been placed on the IR, the Steelers could add him on Sept. 4, and have the ability to take him off the IR later in the season. Had they already placed him on the IR, he would not be eligible.
According to Albert Breer of NFL.com, language of the exact rule is still being finalized, so it isn't clear at what point a player would be eligible to return, but the initial proposal was after midseason.
If DeCastro is indeed out 8-10 weeks, upon completion of his rehabilitation, he could be placed back on the active roster, provided the Steelers put him on the IR on or after Tuesday, Sept. 4.
That means he would have to be on the active roster after the final cuts are made. Those are due to the league by 9 p.m. ET Friday.
This is assuming, too, the Steelers are interested in doing this. It seems logical, but teams can only use it once, and if DeCastro, who had surgery yesterday on his knee, is facing a longer rehab process than there is time in the season, they may simply keep him on the IR, and use it in the event of another injury.
It wouldn't likely be used on RB Rashard Mendenhall as he continues to rehabilitate his knee after tearing his ACL at the end of last season. Mendenhall was taken off the PUP list, but isn't expected to be active for the first few weeks of the season. The rule likely won't allow a player to be taken off the IR until midseason, or a time around then.