THURSDAY’S PRACTICE BUZZ
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers and rookie offensive guard David DeCastro had such high hopes when the club selected him with its first-round pick this year, and the 6-foot-5, 316-pound Stanford grad appeared to be poised to live up to everyone’s expectations.
DeCastro started the Steelers opening three preseason games at right guard, but he didn’t finish that last one Aug. 25 in Buffalo. In fact, DeCastro barely got going, as he suffered a serious injury to his right knee during the Steelers’ second offensive series and had to be taken from the field on a cart.
During the operation four days later, doctors found that DeCastro suffered a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL), a dislocated kneecap and patellar tendon damage. There was still hope for a return this season, as DeCastro was put on the new reserve-injured list Sept. 7, which meant he was designated for return in eight weeks at the season’s midpoint.
The way DeCastro quickly moves in and out of the locker room, without a limp or even a brace on the knee, there appears to be more than a chance that he could come back this year. Attempts to gain comments from DeCastro have been difficult, as he spends minutes in the locker room at most and hastens to lunch or the training room anytime reporters approach.
“Nope, I don’t have any pain, so I’m just working hard to try to get back,” DeCastro said in response to a quick question. “I’m riding the bike, mostly, but I’m not running yet.”
That was it for DeCastro, but Steelers left guard Willie Colon had more to say.
“It’s tough for him to lose his first year in the NFL,” Colon said. “He was a projected starter coming out, so it’s been tough. Obviously, to go down like that, it has to be disappointing. But he’s a head-strong kid. He knows what it takes to get back on the horse as soon as possible.
“And everybody around here is looking forward to him getting back out there. That’ll be fun. Until then, he’s in all our O-line meetings. He watches practice and goes through walkthroughs. So, that’s a good sign that he’s here all the time. And he’s still part of the family, so we want to keep him close.”
Ramon Foster, who DeCastro was supposed to supplant, has returned to his starting spot at right guard.
“He’s part of the room,” Foster said. “We don’t treat him any differently than anybody else. He just comes in and does his rehab, but lately he’s been staying for the evening meetings. He’s part of the team like everybody else.
“I’m sure, knowing that he’s not going to play, he’d rather be at home. It’s probably boring to him. Being that this guy is going to be here for a while, the coaches are going to keep him involved so he doesn’t feel like an outcast.”
DeCastro still has another month on the sideline, but by the time November arrives he should be ready to go.
Brown Backs Off
After describing Eagles rookie cornerback Brandon Boykin as a candy bar Wednesday, Snickers, to be exact, Steelers wideout Antonio Brown backed off those comments Thursday.
Before practice, Brown basically denied making them to Washington, Pa. Observer-Reporter sports writer Dale Lolley. After practice Thursday, Brown said he agreed with Boykin, who responded to questions about it by saying he preferred to let his actions on the field do the talking.
Either way, that should be an interesting matchup if it comes about Sunday.
For the first time this season, the Steelers got full participation from every injured player Thursday for the second straight practice.
Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (groin), outside linebacker James Harrison (left knee), running back Rashard Mendenhall (right knee) and safety Troy Polamalu (right calf) all participated in team drills during Thursday’s practice session.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said that while he’s pleased that Mendenhall will return to the backfield against the Eagles, it was not yet determined how much the former first-round pick would play.
“I thought that he’s looked pretty good the past three weeks, but you could tell that he’s steadily gained confidence out there,” Haley said. “He’s a heckuva player and a difference maker, and the more of those you can have the better. (And) if he is out there, I would think he’d give us pretty good feedback on how he’s doing. So, we’ll just see how it goes.”
Since it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the NFL has designated certain games where teams can wear certain accessories, like shoes, gloves and wristbands, that are colored pink.
So, many Steelers practiced this week with them and are expected to wear hot pink shoes during Sunday’s game against the Eagles.