The New England Patriots should not pursue six-time Pro Bowl, two-time-All-Pro guard David DeCastro, who was cut by the Steelers with a Non-Football Injury (NFI) designation.
The Patriots could use a Pro Bowl guard to replace Joe Thuney, who accepted a huge deal from Kansas City to protect Patrick Mahomes this season, so it seems like a logical fit, as long as a way can be found for DeCastro to get around an injured ankle. The source of that injury is a bit mysterious, though. Are the Steelers simply being cheapskates, or what is going on with that ankle?
At press time, Musket Fire has not heard from DeCastro or his agent, Tom Condon of Creative Artists Agency, concerning the injury and whether they agree that it is a non-football injury or not.
It may not matter. Last season’s Steelers offensive line was greatly overrated, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was under-appreciated for what he did with very little protection. According to Nextgenstats.nfl.com, Roethlisberger had the shortest average time to thrown in the league at only 2.3 seconds last season. That means that the Steelers offensive line only had to sustain their blocks for a little over 2.3 seconds so Big Ben could get the ball airborne.
Plus, if a lineman were to mess up, it usually takes more than one tackler to bring down Big Ben’s 6-foot-7 frame and 241 pounds of gristle. For that reason, the offensive line gave up only 14 sacks all season, and they looked great statistically.
In reality, they were falling apart as the season went on.
Regardless of the ankle injury, the Steelers star guard is not a good match to the Patriots
Consider that the Steelers began the season with five consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Then they had only one more (against Jacksonville) in the next 12 games including the playoff loss to Cleveland. They were pathetic. Remember that Roethlisberger had to have his elbow surgically reconstructed, and the Steelers vowed to be very careful with him this year. Accordingly, he was extremely effective when the Steelers could run the ball and limit his workload. But one point he put the ball in the air 196 times in a four stretch. Give Roethlisberger an “A” for heroism, but give the Steelers running game and offensive line a failing grade for making it necessary.
There is no polite way to say this, but the Steelers’ offensive line was weak last season and lived off their reputation. There is no one on that line who was a very valuable player.
Roethlisberger does not have the reputation of being a mental giant, but this is unfair. The truth is that Roethlisberger is as sharp mentally as any quarterback this side of Drew Brees. He can stand in the spread formation and find an open receiver and hit him with a seven-yard pass as well as anyone in the NFL. He can compensate for a weak offensive line.
For those who are fans of Pro Football Focus, note that their grading system is based on achievements, not an evaluation of ability. So, for example, if you are Pittsburgh offensive lineman and your job is to pass block for 2.3 seconds and you do that, you get a good grade. However, if you are a Baltimore offensive lineman and you are supposed to block for Lamar Jackson while he scrambles for 40 seconds and you get called for holding, you get a bad grade.
Go back and look at the grades for Pittsburgh linemen, and you will see that they all had great grades for pass blocking, but miserable grades for run blocking, including DeCastro. That Pittsburgh offensive line was not real in 2020, Pro Bowl or no Pro Bowl.
If you were going to tell me that DeCastro was hurting and has since healed up, then okay. But if they are trying to force some kind of injury settlement, then sadly, this is unlikely to be the case.
The sack numbers from 2020 show that Ben Roethlisberger is deserving of mad respect from his adversaries. Roethlisberger’s quick release and ability to make rapid decisions covered up the weakness of his offensive line, and it’s more likely DeCastro retires than joins the Patriots this season.