Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Imagine how good he’d be if he wasn’t running for his life every other snap.
The Pittsburgh Steelers took a big step in ensuring their best player stays healthy and upright by selecting Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro with their first round pick. DeCastro is by all accounts the best offensive guard in the 2012 NFL Draft. As such, very few people expected him to still be around by the time the Steelers picked 24th overall. I must’ve looked at twenty mock drafts, from professional blowhards like Peter King to every amateur draftnik with a blog and nobody had DeCastro available when we picked. To give you a rough idea how highly regarded this kid was, King had him slotted to
Pittsburgh West Arizona at #13 while that smug prick Todd McShay had him going at #11 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
DeCastro is a 6’5 316 pound beast who started every game the past three seasons for Stanford. He’s equally adept at run blocking and pass protection and he executes both with extreme prejudice. I could go on and on with numbers and scouting reports but all that really needs be said is scouts have compared him favorably to Alan Faneca. When you draft a kid who reminds people of a guy who was a nine time Pro Bowler, two time offensive lineman of the year and member of the Steelers All-Time Team, that’s a pretty good pick.
As General Manager Kevin Colbert mentions above, they didn’t expect DeCastro to slip that far but when he started to fall, they immediately identified him as a player they would be willing to move up to get. As things happened, they never had to. Things were going more or less according to script through the first dozen picks when the Seattle Seahawks threw everybody a curveball by taking a thug from West Virginia named Bruce Irvin. That set off a run on defensive lineman where four of the next six picks were defensive tackles or DE/OLB hybrids. In fact, no fewer than ten DT and DE/OLB hybrids were taken in the first round. That opened the door for quality offensive lineman, who have inspired runs of their own in the previous couple drafts, to fall to the later picks.
Before the draft, I was worried that Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler would be gone when the Steelers chose. Not only were they both still on the board when the Steelers picked, we pretty much had our choice of offensive lineman for once. After neglecting the offensive line for so many years, taking an OG may not have been a sexy pick but it was absolutely the right pick. Hightower went one pick later to New England and while I expect he’ll have a nice little career under Bill Belichick, the Steelers don’t NEED another linebacker. They NEED to protect the best quarterback in Steeler history. We had the top ranked defense last year and where did that get us after Big Ben broke his foot running for his life in Cleveland?
Protect Ben and everything else is gravy.
I said in my draft preview, the Steelers don’t need depth, they need starters. As Mike Tomlin says in the above video, DeCastro is already penciled in as starter at RG in 2012. Scouts rave about DeCastro’s ability to pull on run blocks so I have a feeling he’ll eventually move over to LG but for now they’ll ease him into the NFL on the right side. Incumbent RG Ramon Foster will probably slide over to the left with Doug Legursky, who honestly has no business being a starting guard for a championship level team, will return to his role as super-sub. When the DeCastro pick was announced, the Twitterverse exploded in orgasmic joy which I understand even if I don’t necessarily agree. DeCastro is a great start to fixing our horrendous offensive line but I’m still really worried about Marcus Gilbert and Willie Colon at the tackles. Baby steps, I guess.
In other draft news, two of our AFC North brethren were busy yesterday. The Bengals used their first pick on the best available criminal, taking pothead CB Dre Kirkpatrick. They later traded down with New England and wound up with the Steelers’ sloppy seconds, taking OG Zeitler at #27. The Browns, who have a solid supporting cast but zero playmakers, tried their damnedest to fill that void by moving up to take RB Trent Richardson. They later picked up former minor league pitcher QB Brandon Weeden, evidently putting an end to the Colt McCoy era. Big Ben competed in three Super Bowls by age 29, Weeden will be starting his rookie year. The Ratbirds, meanwhile, evidently feel they have no room for improvement as they waited at #29 to see how the draft fell, decided they didn’t like what was left, and traded out of the first round.
So where do we go from here? As we saw yesterday, predicting who is going to be taken when is nigh impossible. I will say this, with the run on defensive lineman yesterday, that position has been thinned out considerably. I can see the Steelers wasting no time in picking up Washington’s Alameda Ta’amu or Clemson’s Brandon Thompson as Big Snack’s heir apparent at nose tackle in round two. After that, I’m sure they’ll simply fall back into their usual mode of taking the best player available.