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Steelers David DeCastro leads by reaction through 15-yard penalty

DeCastro angrily confronted Panthers LB Luke Kuechly after the defending Defensive Player of the Year shoved Steelers Justin Brown back to the ground after making a tackle. It might have been the spark igniting the team in the second half.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Bad can be good. Wrong can be right.

But don't expect Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to echo these sentiments. Perhaps the immortal wisdom of Hickory High School boys basketball coach Norman Dale can be substituted instead.

Rade was a stubborn wing player who had been benched twice during Hickory's regular season, once for shooting before the ball was passed four times (one of Dale's least-inspiring strategic decisions) and once for speaking in the huddle.

The Huskers were in the hostile, cage-like confines of Verdi High battling a tough and physical opponent. Dale freaks out after a hard foul, confronts the referee and stands toe-to-toe with the opposing coach. Dale engages in a heated exchange that ended with the neanderthal-like post player jabbing his finger in Dale's chest. In a deft move, likely derived from his naval combat background, Dale slaps his hand away and, before the player has a chance to respond, Rade drops him with a roundhouse left that started off-camera and finished in full extension.

A brawl ensues and, in the aftermath, both Dale and Rade are tossed, leading to a shot of the two disgraced competitors leaving the war zone with fans screaming and throwing popcorn at them.

Rade looks at Dale as they're walking out and asks, "Got him with a good one, didn't I, coach?"

Dale smiles, "Yeah, you did" in a resigned "I hate that I loved this just happened" way.

Mike Tomlin doesn't smile or give any suggestion in front of the camera that he loves any kind of penalty. With 21 of them in two games, it's understandable. So I'm going to love David DeCastro's quasi-Rade impression for Coach Tomlin. His surprising emotional outburst, when Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly shoved Justin Brown back to the ground with the clock running at the end of the second half, was beautiful.

I don't care that he was penalized or even that the penalty (temporarily) knocked them out of field goal range. DeCastro saw the bigger picture and he showed everyone in attendance the bonds on this team are strong. It's much the same sentiment as when LeGarrette Blount hopped in to a scrum between Le'Veon Bell and Vince Williams during training camp.

Before LeBackfield was tearing the Panthers' run defense apart, there was DeCastro, the quiet, intense tactician who possibly may never have been flagged for a personal foul, speaking for Steeler Nation when he confronted Kuechly, coming to the aid of his teammate who had been wronged. Had Kuechly not been bitten in the calf by the invisible bug that also bit Emmanuel Sanders in a Steelers game in 2012, this might not even have drawn a penalty. Kuechly's flop should draw a fine from the league but likely will not. The fact he didn't even try to mask his desire to milk the remaining few seconds on the clock through bush-league tactics likely won't draw any reaction from the league either.

Us Against the World, perhaps?

I want to believe all of this flashed through DeCastro's mind at that moment, and the impending injustice he witnessed compelled him to take matters into his own hands. I want to imagine Tomlin, off camera, chastising DeCastro for the penalty while at the same time praising his instincts to protect his teammates. I want to hear in my head a fiery speech pointing out the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hadn't made a play all night and, instead of stopping the Steelers' offense, he resorted to the desperate act of a dominated defense, right in front of the official, thus delaying the spot of the ball and attempting to ruin the Black and Gold's chance to score before halftime.

I want to pretend Tomlin challenged the offense to then go straight at Kuechly, render him ineffective and impose their considerable strength on a Panthers defensive line that was supposed to crush them.

All of this, in my mind, is worth a 15-yard penalty. The message it sends - mess with my guy, you mess with me - is a mandatory statement any championship caliber team sends through actions, not words.

The Panthers were nothing short of slaughtered in the second half, and I like to think DeCastro's actions spurred on some of that.

Trading 15 yards at the end of the first half, to earn 28 points in a dominant second half by a focused and motivated team, seems like a wise investment.

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