Why releasing David DeCastro, signing Trai Turner could hurt Steelers OL

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive guard David DeCastro (66). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive guard David DeCastro (66). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers released former All-Pro guard David DeCastro. Here’s why this could come back to hurt Pittsburgh in 2021. 

When it comes to the decision to let go of offensive guard, David DeCastro, it sounds like the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t have much of a choice. After dealing with a knee injury that caused him to miss time early in the season, it was recently reported that DeCastro has been dealing with an ankle issue for quite some time.

Prior to his release, the Steelers interestingly brought in 5-time Pro Bowl guard, Trai Turner. This certainly raised eyebrows at the time, and I wrote about how this was bad news for David DeCastro. Shortly after DeCastro was officially released, Turner was signed to fill the void.

While Turner has been a terrific player in his own right during his NFL career, this transition from one former Pro Bowl guard to another may not go as swimmingly as fans would like to hope. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why this could prove to hurt the Steelers:

Going from DeCastro to Turner could hurt Steelers

For starters, DeCastro isn’t the only player with a medical history. Trai Turner has played just 13 games or less since 2016 and managed to suit up for just 9 contests in 2020. DeCastro has played 10 more games over that span. It’s also possible that Trai Turner never returns to full form as the Pro Bowl-caliber player we saw earlier in his career.

In addition to medical concerns with Turner, I would pump the brakes on trying to dub him as the better player of the two guards. Though he did make 5 straight Pro Bowls from 2015-2019, his last few felt much like they did with Maurkice Pouncey: he may not have earned them.

I can’t say that I’ve studied Trai Turner closely enough over the last several years to accurately assess him, but he was never considered the dominant, road-grading guard in the same category as David DeCastro. Pro Football Focus didn’t think so either. In 9 games last year, Turner graded out as the 79th ranked guard out of 80 qualifying players, and his 34.8 grade was embarrassingly low.

While we could chalk this up to injuries, Turner really hasn’t been spectacular as he hasn’t earned a grade over 67.9 over the past three seasons. A few of those Pro Bowls may have been awarded for reputation alone.

On top of all of this, one thing that the media typically fails to mention is the importance of continuity and chemistry along the offensive line. The Steelers had a great deal of this over much of the past decade, and DeCastro was the last man standing from that group. With so much turnover on the offensive line this year, this younger group could really struggle – especially without a veteran leader.

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Trai Turner turned just 28 years old this offseason, and it’s possible that he could return back to Pro Bowl form. However, it’s naive to think that he’s automatically going to be an upgrade over David DeCastro.