Nobody expected the Pittsburgh Steelers to land guard David DeCastro in the the latter half of the 2012 NFL draft. Even fewer expected DeCastro to make little impact after suffering a serious injury in only his third preseason game.
DeCastro was able to rejoin the team late in the year, but injuries throughout the ranks derailed any opportunity the team had for postseason play. However, just because DeCastro suffered a disappointing setback during his rookie season, did not mean he was willing to allow it to be a setback for his career or his team.
As noted by TribLive's Alan Robinson, DeCastro not only actively rehabbed his ailing knee; he also remained active in the classroom. As he prepares to enter his sophomore season, all of his hard work is paying off.
"The NFL is a lot different game than it is in college, just technique-wise, using your hands. There's stuff you pick up on and kind of teach yourself. A lot of guys already have that technique; you can see it in all the second- or third-year guys."
"Pouncey has got his technique down, Ramon's got a technique down. So you take bits and pieces and see what you're doing. I learned a lot and, to me, it's all instinct now. It's a whole different game, and I think I'm a lot more prepared for this season. ... It's almost like a fresh beginning."
When DeCastro declared himself eligible for the NFL draft coming out of Stanford, his exploits in the classroom were as admirable as those on the football field. If he has applied the same dedication to learning the nuances of the professional game as he gave to the collegiate level, DeCastro could become an important part of Pittsburgh's attempt to rebuild a balanced, but potent offensive attack.
The Steelers will have a new run blocking scheme in 2013, under a new offensive line coach, Jack Bicknell Jr. With Ramon Foster being the eldest member of the projected starting five at the age of 27, the Steelers will need their young line to play like seasoned veterans operating on instinct. Maurkice Pouncey has already established himself as one of the best linemen in the entire league, and twin second-round picks Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert are prepared to hold down the exterior battlements.
If DeCastro has absorbed his lessons to the point he believes he has, he may just help affirm the faith of the Steelers, who believe they have assembled one of the best young lines in the NFL from a potential standpoint. If the line can live up to the team's expectations, the offense may just find the time Ben Roethlisberger has been missing and the blocking their running game has been denied.
The Steelers have won league championships with less-publicized talent. If this year's unit can stay healthy and continue to gel, they may just be the boost needed to push Pittsburgh deep into the post-season once again.