Steelers offensive guard David DeCastro has been a stalwart along the offensive line for nine seasons, but he apparently almost never made it to Pittsburgh in the first place.
In a behind-the-scenes story on Twitter on Tuesday, NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala shared that the team was on the verge of instead drafting former Alabama and current New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower with the No. 24th-overall pick.
That is when Steelers team president Art Rooney II stepped in and vetoed the selection, instead having the club draft DeCastro, recognizing the need for a dominant offensive lineman.
One of the first behind-the-scenes stories I was told when I moved to PIT in 2012: #Steelers were all set to draft stud LB Dont'a Hightower. Then, moments before the pick, Art Rooney steps in and says, No, we need an OL. Take David DeCastro.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) February 15, 2021
This is instructive, Steelers fans.
The Steelers opted to take DeCastro, but Hightower did not have to wait long. He was taken with the very next pick at No. 25 by the Patriots. Both clubs seemed to have made the right call.
DeCastro has been selected to six straight Pro Bowls and named First-Team All-Pro twice over his career.
Hightower’s career has been pretty successful as well. While he has only earned two Pro Bowl nods, Hightower is a three-time Super Bowl champion with New England. Hightower opted out of the 2020 season due to family health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now nine years later, the Steelers are once again in possession of the No. 24 selection with needs along the offensive line. History could repeat itself in the 2021 NFL Draft.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Projects Alabama C Landon Dickerson to Steelers in Latest Mock Draft
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. predicted that the Pittsburgh Steelers will select Alabama center Landon Dickerson in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft in his latest mock draft.
Kiper, who released his second mock draft of the season on Thursday, has the Steelers staying with the No. 24 overall pick in the first round to take Dickerson in a mock draft that has three trades in the first round.
The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Alabama grad could play center or guard, but would be immediately be slotted in as a replacement for retired starter Maurkice Pouncey at center.
Dickerson spent his first three seasons at Florida State before transferring to Alabama in 2019. He started four games at right guard and nine games at center in 2019 and started at center in 2020, where he was the winner of the Rimington Trophy as the country’s best center.
Dickerson suffered an ACL injury in the SEC Championship Game in December and concerns regarding that injury have depressed Dickerson’s draft value, but he is generally considered to be the best center in the class and no worse than a second-round pick.
Poll: What Was Biggest Issue with Steelers Running Game in 2020?
The Steelers finished dead last in the NFL in rushing in 2020 and general manager Kevin Colbert has seen it as a top offseason priority to rectify that standing going into 2021.
The Steelers have already made a change in coaching, with Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm taking over as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
There will also be substantive changes to the personnel, as starting center Maurkice Pouncey has retired and starting running back James Conner, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, left guard Matt Feiler and right tackle Zach Banner are pending free agents.
“You can’t say the runners weren’t good enough or the quarterbacks weren’t good enough or the line wasn’t good enough,” Colbert said in speaking with the media last week. “To put out the kind of running game we did, no one was good enough. And again, that is a collective effort. … We need to finish (seasons). And I think having a strong running game helps teams finish in that time of year.”
With that being said, Steelers fans, which area of the running game do you think was the biggest issue in 2020?
NFL Insider John Clayton: Steelers Out of Running for J.J. Watt
One of the league’s most prominent insiders believes the Steelers are out of the running for free agent defensive end J.J. Watt.
Joining The PM Team on 93.7 The Fan on Wednesday, NFL insider John Clayton said Watt will not be joining his brothers T.J. and Derek in Pittsburgh.
Clayton sees the Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills as the favorites to land Watt’s services.
For a potential dark horse, Clayton says the Las Vegas Raiders as an outside-the-box candidate to sign the veteran pass rusher.
.@JohnClaytonNFL says JJ Watt won't be coming to Pittsburgh. Tennessee, Green Bay, and Buffalo are the 3 teams. Raiders as a dark horse.— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) February 24, 2021
Watt leaves Houston as one of the greatest players in franchise history. He was selected to five Pro Bowls, named First-Team All-Pro on five occasions and earned three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.
A future Hall of Famer, Watt is the Texans’ all-time leader in sacks (101), tackles-for-loss (172) and forced fumbles (25).
Watt recorded 52 total tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and returned an interception for a touchdown in 2020.