When the Steelers released veteran guard David DeCastro it caught a lot of people by surprise. You know who wasn’t? DeCastro himself.
“Not surprised,” DeCastro answered when I texted him Thursday evening.
DeCastro, who played through injury last season, did not participate in any of the voluntary workouts and when he did show up for the first day of mini-camp it was as a spectator. He was not at Heinz Field last Wednesday or Thursday.
When quizzed about DeCastro’s absence, Mike Tomlin downplayed it. “If I thought injury circumstances or reasons people are not participating were significant I would share them with you,” Tomlin said.
Of course, as it turns out, DeCastro’s situation was serious. “I had surgery on this ankle last year and it didn’t heal right. Last year it bothered me. Not only is it painful but it’s hard to play on when you feel like you’re playing half-legged,” he explained when we spoke over the phone Friday.
It clearly affected his play and it hasn’t gotten any better. “The bone spurs came back that limited my motion and I gotta get it fixed for a third time,” DeCastro continued. “I just gotta get this ankle right, not just for football if I want to play again but just for life to make sure I have mobility and be able to be active when I’m done.”
So is David DeCastro done? Is his NFL career over at just 31 years old?
“I’ve thought about it all off-season,” DeCastro admitted, “I knew something was wrong. I wanted to give it that 18-month window (which) is usually when you can tell with surgery so I gave it time to rest then started working out, running and moving around, but I knew something wasn’t right.”
Sure enough, an MRI last week backed that up and DeCastro will go under the knife once again. After that? “I’m not really too concerned about the future, to be honest,” DeCastro said, “I had a great career here and I’ll give it (retire or play) the time that it deserves and go from there.”
DeCastro says it will be “a couple of months” after surgery before he can really contemplate a return to football and even then it may not be clear. “ I don’t know if it would need more,” he said, “definitely getting older your body doesn’t recover like it used to and if you start pounding on it right away stuff doesn’t come back. A lot of variables, a lot of questions, kind of taking it day-by-day.”
DeCastro says it was frustrating to be a part of some very good teams that came close but never could go all the way but wouldn’t trade the camaraderie he had – especially with Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Al Villaneuva and others – for anything. But it will be weird seeing Villaneuva in a Ravens uniform.
“It’s going to be pretty funny,” DeCastro laughed, “it’s a weird year; I think after last year anything’s possible. I know he’s excited about the opportunity there. It will be interesting to watch the Steelers-Ravens games that’s for sure.”
In nine seasons with Pittsburgh, DeCastro was selected to 6 Pro Bowls and twice was named first-team All Pro.
“I gave it my best shot but my body didn’t cooperate.”