“You can definitely see it on film,” the Steelers’ center reported. “No. 66 definitely did his thing this past Sunday.”
The timing couldn’t have been better for such a breakthrough game.
But from Velasco’s perspective what the Steelers got from DeCastro in his first career start against Baltimore was merely more of what they’ve been getting.
“You can definitely see the confidence, and just his vibe and feeling for the game definitely improving on a week by week basis,” Velasco said. “He’s going to be a good player for a long time.
“As an offensive lineman, just like a quarterback sometimes, a lot of stuff goes on pre-snap that you have to be aware of. You have to understand what’s going on, what the defense is trying to give you. His knowledge of the game and just his smarts give him an advantage that a lot of guys don’t have. He can see what a linebacker’s doing. He can read a defensive lineman’s stance, or whatever defensive scheme and definitely use it to his advantage.”
DeCastro played in only four games last year, starting three at right guard, after sustaining a knee injury in the preseason. His development this season has been reminiscent of his sophomore season at Stanford.
“The game slows down to where you just see things and you notice things that you don’t have to think about as long,” DeCastro explained. “It doesn’t take as long to process things. You just see, ‘Oh, that’s that,’ and your mind already knows before you have to think about it, just real little things, subtle things that make a difference.
“It was happening last year, but it’s a process and it just gets better and better as you get more experience. It was the same way in college. It just takes a little bit of time to really figure it out. It just follows a similar pattern that college did. You come in your first year, and everything’s kind of like a million miles an hour. Your second year comes around and everything starts to slow down and you play faster as a result. You don’t think about much. You just focus on blocking the guy in front of you, it comes naturally.”
Those subtle nuances DeCastro has been noticing have made a difference. But DeCastro also was challenged physically against Ngata, a player he characterized as “extremely strong.
“There was a point where I was blocking him and was like ‘man, this guy’s big,’” DeCastro remembered. “It took all my might to just hold on and stop a bull rush.”
The Steelers rushed for a season high 141 yards against Baltimore, and
“Certainly a team effort,” DeCastro said of the Steelers’ success in containing Ngata (four tackles, one-half sack).
DeCastro acknowledged his game is “a lot better” this season, but he’s neither satisfied nor a finished product.
“Football is one of those games where you can always be better,” he said. “I played well last game but there were still some plays where I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ I think the great players always strive to fix those things and be perfect.”