In Sunday’s contest against the formerly undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell put together his best performance of the season, accounting for 179 yards on 32 carries, an average of 5.6 yards per carry. As remarkable as this performance may have been, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line, engineered by offensive line coach Mike Munchak, that made it possible for Bell to accomplish such a feat. If one were to evaluate this game closely, the player on offense that made the greatest impact was actually not Bell, it was All-Pro guard David DeCastro.
DeCastro had one of the best performance of his career Sunday, as his blocks contributed to rendering one of the best defenses in the league ineffective against the run by opening huge holes for Bell to run through. One aspect that has been noted about DeCastro since his days in Stanford is his ability to pull and trap. Coming out of college, he was labelled the best pulling guard in the 2012 draft. After the blocking performance he put together Sunday, one can make the argument that he is the best pulling guard in the NFL.
Technique and Positioning
When coming off the line, what is noticeable about DeCastro is that he uses just enough speed to execute his pull; this affords him the time to establish the proper base to seal the defensive player inside. The idea in this instance is not to give the defensive end or outside linebacker any opportunity to set the edge, thus resulting in big gains for Bell outside. In the first clip, the Steelers are seen running the power trey to the right side. Note that DeCastro, seen leading the power trey, has his eyes set on his target, Chiefs All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston. As he turns the corner, he is able to successfully establish the proper base to seal him inside. As a result, Houston is unable to set the edge, giving Bell the open space to get the first down. What is interesting to watch is the angle DeCastro takes when he turns the corner; rather than run towards him, he runs to his outside shoulder. This subtle detail allowed DeCastro to position himself to turn Houston inside.
Timing the Rush
In this example of a counter trey, DeCastro displays his ability to anticipate and time his block. From the snap, DeCastro pulls and immediately has his eyes on Chiefs’ linebacker Dee Ford. When Ford makes his attempt to rush into the backfield, DeCastro is able to time his block, stopping him in his tracks. Note the way DeCastro was able to seal him inside, giving Ford little opportunity to pursue the run. By the time he is able to follow the play, Bell was only a few yards away from a first down. When it comes to blocking, timing is as important as technique or positioning. Part of what makes DeCastro an effective blocker is his ability to time the block, rendering the defender ineffective.
The Perfect Block
There is no question that DeCastro is one of the most physical offensive lineman playing today. Aside from technique, what makes him so good is how he embraces the physical nature of the game and impose his brand of physicality on the opposing defense. The play seen in this next clip is an example of this.
A common theme noted in DeCastro’s pulling blocks is the manner in which he looks ahead, anticipating any defenders trying to come through. In the case, Chiefs’ defensive back Daniel Sorensen is seen coming through the c-gap with the objective of making a play in the backfield. What is noticeable in the clip is that Sorensen does not initially see DeCastro pulling. By the time he does, it was too late as he was already committed to the blitz. What happens next is…….
The collision was heavy enough not only to stop Sorensen from coming through, but it also gave Bell a big enough gap to get the first down. If there is one play that encapsulates the type of game DeCastro had against the Chiefs, it would be this play.
Coming into this game, David DeCastro held himself responsible for the Steelers poor offensive performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars the previous week. Not only did he correct his mistakes, but he made a tremendous contribution in helping the Steelers effectively run the ball. There is no doubt that if the Steelers want to continue their success on the ground, DeCastro must continue playing at the high level he has been playing all season long.