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David DeCastro Sees ‘More Team Oriented’ Steelers in Return to Practice

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PITTSBURGH — Steelers guard David DeCastro made his first appearance at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in 2019, as he reported to the team’s mandatory minicamp, which started Tuesday morning.

DeCastro missed all three weeks of the Steelers organized team activities on the South Side due to the birth of his child, but the 29-year-old, four-time Pro Bowler was certainly keeping apprised of the goings on during OTAs.

The Steelers’ offensive line is mostly set as a unit, as just right tackle Marcus Gilbert is missing from the group the team possessed a year ago. DeCastro wasn’t worried about the physical play of the offensive line while he was gone.

Instead, the eighth-year guard was hoping that the drama of the early part of the 2018-19 offseason had turned into a more product work environment.

“I think things have changed pretty well around here,” DeCastro said. “Just coming back and seeing it and talking to people, I’m excited, I really am, to just play football.”

The offseason saw the subtraction of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell from the Steelers locker room, and a renewed focus on leadership from returners like Ben Roethlisberger.

“I think everyone is on the same page, more team oriented, and that’s the first step,” he said. “Ben’s always been a great leader to me and I’m excited to play with a guy like that. I have a ton of respect for him. How could you not? He’s one of those guys that you get in the huddle with, he brings you up, because he’s so competitive. I’m just looking forward to getting back on the field with him.”

As for the on-field product, DeCastro said he doesn’t expect the offensive line to miss a beat following Gilbert’s departure, but noted the early date and the amount of work still to go before they can turn in a positive performance.

“It’s still early. The offseason is what it is. I’m excited to get the pads on at training camp and get back to football. It’s obviously been a weird offseason with a lot of things. Just worried about football now.”

Steelers

Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/25/20

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It was all about wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s return and the Watt brothers at the final practice before the Steelers week 3 game against Houston.

Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers

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Steelers

Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/24/20

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While it’s odd to see referees standing out in a clip of highlights, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s plan to incorporate actual refs into practice this week happened on Thursday.

Tomlin explained he is adding refs to practice to ensure his team is more disciplined, which hopefully leads to less penalties in their game this week compared to last week.

Wide receivers James Washington, Diontae Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron run routes and catch passes in this clip.

Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers

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Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger Says Form, Mechanics Can Be Better Despite Hot Start

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To hear Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tell it, he can better than what he’s shown on the field in his first two weeks since returning from elbow surgery.

He’s not happy with his footwork, he thinks he’s dropping his arm a bit and needs a more consistent release point.

The statistics, however tell another story. They say Roethlisberger has been operating at a higher level of precision than ever before. So which is it? Maybe both.

“I do feel I got a little lazy with my feet, which then, in turn, translated to a lazy arm,” Roethlisberger said. “There were some throws that I kind of dropped my elbow, if you will. I don’t want to get too technical, but it became more of a three-quarter release instead of an over the top when I didn’t need to. There are obviously times you have to change your release point. There were too many throws, I felt looking back, that I just have to get my feet working better, and that will then translate, hopefully, to the rest of the body. Then, I won’t be guiding some of the throws.”

Here’s an example from the game Roethlisberger’s form getting a little sloppy. He throws this ball flat-footed and almost all with his right side, getting less power behind it than usual and resulting in a pass that ends up behind JuJu Smith-Shuster instead of allowing him to build a head of steam toward the defenders at the line of scrimmage.

Is this a big deal here? Not really. Smith-Schuster probably couldn’t have done much better than he did at bulling over the defender, anyway. But this is also a route into the flat on the near side of the field. Over longer distances, that can make a big difference.

“I’ve gotten away with it in the past being able to not necessarily be perfect from the ground up and just letting my arm kind of make up for a lot of things, a lot of imperfections if you talk to quarterback people,” Roethlisberger said. “I feel great. I just need to get it in my mind that I can still make the throws when I’m not in the perfect position to make them.”

All of that can be true, and yet, it’s hard to argue with the results. Through two games, Roethlisberger has a 68.5 completion percentage. His career season high was 68% in 2015. In a game and a half last year, it was 56.5%.

His passer rating, even with an interception against the Broncos, is 107.1. His career season-long high came in 2o07, when he finished with a 104.1 mark. Last season before his injury, it was 66.

Some of that can be explained by a passing scheme that has take fewer deep shots down the field than it has in years past. His yards per pass attempt sits at 7.4, lower than all but four of his other 16 seasons.

Mechanical inconsistency can certainly have a greater impact on longer throws, so the Steelers’ somewhat more methodical offensive approach could be helping Roethlisberger get into the swing of things.

“Maybe some of that just comes from not playing a lot of football,” he posited. “I played two games this year. I played a game and a half last year, so really, it’s about three and a half games in two years if you think about it. It’ll come. Like I said, if I’m having these issues and we are still winning football games, that’s a plus.”

If a 2-0 record with career highs in passer rating and completion percentage is what he looks like with mechanical issues, the NFL should be very worried about what might happen if he gets into a groove.

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