Just when you thought that the Steelers news cycle was about to grind to a near halt for the next month, the brain trust on the South Side decides to drop a bomb:
- The Steelers are cutting David DeCastro.
The move, while a surprise, does not come as a total shock. David DeCastro was absent from OTAs and only attended one day of the mandatory mini-camp. He watched in street clothes did not participate in any drills.
Mike Tomlin declined to explain why DeCastro was not participating, and when asked if it was because of injury, he issued a quasi non-denial-denial. The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly pointed out that David DeCastro was the only Steelers starter who was not made available to the press via a Zoom call.
Then, as OTAs drew to a close, word leaked that the Steelers had worked out Trai Turner, a five time Pro Bowl player with 89 starts to his name.
When asked about it in his mail bag, The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette responded “You don’t bring in a vet of Turner’s resume — a five-time Pro Bowl guard not yet 30 — just to kick the tires,” after downplaying the likelihood of injury, he continued, “There’s some smoke here, though.”
This is one case where smoke clearly meant fire. The only question now is whether that fire will consume whatever the 2021 Steelers already meager Super Bowl dreams.
Steelers Were Depending on DeCastro. Are They Doomed Now?
For the record, the Steelers waived DeCastro with a non-football injury designation, which frees them of any injury settlement obligations. The Steelers also gain around $8.75 million in salary-cap space, although the extra space is of little consolation
- Because complete upheaval on the Steelers offensive line has just become official.
Assuming he starts and remains healthy, Zach Banner will be the only starting offensive lineman from the Steelers 2020 opener against the Giants to return in 2021. (OK, Kevin Dotson started in place of DeCastro, so he’ll be back too.) Chuks Okorafo now becomes the “veteran” leader with all of 19 starts to his name.
While David DeCastro has been one of the NFL’s best offensive lineman for much of the last decade. He missed the 2020 opener and his return helped spur James Conner to his first 100 yard game. Still, it is generally acknowledged that his play slipped in 2020, and the entire line suffered because of it.
- But there is no calculus that results in the Steelers offensive line becoming stronger without DeCastro.
NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo suggests that persistent ankle injuries are an issue and hints that DeCastro is “evaluating his future.” Regardless of whether this was a solely a Steelers decision, it came at DeCastro’s request or it was a mutual choice, this was clearly not in the Steelers plan.
- To replace DeCastro, the Steelers have indeed reportedly signed Trai Turner.
That’s good. But Turner only played 9 games last year and has not played more than 13 games in a season since 2016.
The Steelers of course drafted Kendrick Green in 3rd round of the 2021 NFL Draft and also brought back B.J. Finney both of whom are potential replacements for DeCastro, although both were seen as contenders to start at center…
And for good measure, the NFL today told the Steelers they could not hold training camp at St. Vincents. Just to keep things interesting.
…Repeat, this was NOT in the plan.
Steelers June Curse Continues
Before the NFL pushed OTAs and mini-camps into June a few years ago, it was the only real period of dead space on the league calendar. News was sparse, as millennials and Generation Zers learned what the NFL off season was like prior to the Freeman McNeil verdict which brought free agency.
- Yet the month of June has not been kind to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While it has been dormant for the past few years, the Steelers June Curse has struck back with a vengeance. Consider:
- Ben Roethlisberger suffered his motorcycle accident in June 2006
- Steelers Nation lost Dwight White in June 2008
- John Henry Johnson, a rare pre-Noll Steelers Hall of Famer, died in June 2011
- Offensive tackles Willie Colon AND Chris Scott suffered season ending injuries in June 2010
- In June 2013 Mike Adams got stabbed on the South side
And of course Chuck Noll died in June of 2014. While only a few days in the month remain, June can’t end fast enough for the Steelers.