STEELERS NAB TOP-RATED GUARD
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — It took the Pittsburgh Steelers less than a minute to make their No. 1 pick during the NFL Draft Thursday night, as Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro dropped into the 24th spot where they picked.
DeCastro, nearly 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, is the third offensive lineman that the Steelers have taken with high picks in the past three seasons, as center Maurkice Pouncey was their No. 1 selection in 2010 and tackle Marcus Gilbert was their No. 2 choice last year.
Many had DeCastro slotted somewhere in the top 15, including the Steelers, but it basically was a no-brainer for them to take him with the 24th pick. He was the third offensive guard selected in the first round by the Steelers since 1969, joining Alan Faneca in 1998 and Kendall Simmons in 2002.
“We didn’t think David would be there at 24, quite honestly,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. “We valued him that highly.”
“We said the other day that there were a few special players in this group that we thought were easy to evaluate, and he was one of them. (And) that was an excellent offensive group (at Stanford).”
If DeCastro was upset at all, he didn’t show it, noting that he was just glad to be selected by a team like Steelers. And since Stanford ran a pro-style offense, he could make an immediate impact. The Steelers starting right offensive guard last season, for the most part, was Ramon Foster.
“I had no expectations going in,” DeCastro said. “So, I really didn’t think about it. There are so many variables to take into account. (A) pro-style offense really helped a lot (and) playing for Stanford … got us ready for the NFL.”
DeCastro wasn’t the most talkative draftee in recent years, but when asked about the Steelers’ history, he quickly mentioned Super Bowl XLV when the Steelers beat his favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks.
“I never was the biggest Steelers fan growing up, but … now I’m the biggest Steelers fan that there is,” DeCastro said.
A third-year starter and first-team All-American as a redshirt junior last fall, DeCastro primarily played right guard with the Cardinal, according to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
“We’re going to work to put our best people on the field, and he is going to be considered to be a candidate in that group,” Tomlin said. “The tangible things, of course, are obvious. But he has awesome intangibles.
“He was the unquestioned leader of a very veteran group from a college football standpoint. He’s an extremely talented guy (with) great football character, and we’re excited about putting him in the fold.”
When asked how often Stanford ran plays with him leading the way, DeCastro could not place a number on it. But Colbert took a shot.
“(When) you watched them run the football, I would guess that 80 percent of the time, David DeCastro was leading the way,” Colbert said. “So, this kid is an exceptional player. (He’s) a great player (with) excellent intangibles, character, tough, leader, smart. Everything you could ask for in a football player, this kid encompasses. (We’re) truly, truly excited that he was available for us at 24.”
The second and third rounds are Friday night with the first pick set for 7 p.m.
Leftwich Not Left Out
The Steelers agreed to terms with veteran quarterback Byron Leftwich on a one-year contract Thursday to be the backup to Ben Roethlisberger. He spent the 2008 and 2010-11 seasons with the Steelers.
Leftwich was the seventh overall pick in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003 from Marshall. He spent his first four seasons with Jacksonville before spending one with Atlanta (2007) and Tampa Bay (2009).
Leftwich has played in six games for the Steelers and is 26-for-43 for 345 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 101.4. He missed all of the 2011 season after suffering an arm injury during the preseason that landed him on the Reserve/Injured list Sept. 2, 2011.
In his first nine years in the NFL, Leftwich started 49 of 55 games played and tallied 10,260 passing yards and 58 touchdowns with a passer rating of 79.7.