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Steelers Film Room: David DeCastro Displays The Art of Pulling

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.

Born and raised Ottawa, Ontario Canada, Kelly is a Steelers contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Formerly a contributor for SBNation's 'Behind the Steel Curtain'. Kelly can be reached via the Twitter handle @kanozie80

27 Comments on Steelers Film Room: David DeCastro Displays The Art of Pulling

  1. It is surprising to me that Mike Munchak’s name hasn’t been tossed around for another head coaching job. He has coached up this offensive line to the point where starters can go down (Foster and Gilbert), but the line maintains its near-league-best protection of Roethlisberger and continues to open gaping holes for Le’Veon.

    Munchak’s record in Tennessee was far from exceptional, but it wasn’t bad enough to be disqualified from future head coaching gigs. With so many successful NFL teams being built around quality offensive lines, and so many high draft picks being invested in tackles and guards, one would think that Munchak would be in demand.

    • Kevin Creagh // October 19, 2017 at 1:35 PM //

      Maybe Munchak realizes his limitations and that being a head coach isn’t his jam. Dick Lebeau realized he was a DC and just focused on that after Cincy.

    • Bob Stover // October 19, 2017 at 3:21 PM //

      I don’t want to lose Munchak as our line coach, so NYET!

      As a general proposition/query, I wonder how many OL coaches have become successful head coaches in the NFL. Of those who have, how many did it on the first try? How many have ever done it without first serving as an offensive coordinator?

  2. Bob Smizik // October 19, 2017 at 10:38 AM //

    “ 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.”

    Sorry, if I’m voting on importance of impact on the offense in the win over KC, it is: 1. Le’Veon Bell; 2. Antonio Brown.

    On its `Team of the Week,’ Pro Football Focus included Villanueva, along with Brown and Bell, and not DeCastro.

    • Kelechi Anozie // October 19, 2017 at 11:20 AM //

      I just gave you a sample of three runs by Bell, notice what they all have in common; David DeCastro. I could have also said that Rosevelt Nix had a huge impact in this game as well, since he was the lead blocker on many of those runs. When it comes to this offensive line, they don’t get nearly the credit they deserve, as they are the ones in the trenches making it possible for Le’veon to run through gaping holes; or making it possible for Ben to have the time to pass it to Brown. Never disregard the importance of the offensive line because if they’re not doing their job, Bell nor Brown are not winning any “AFC player of the week” honors.

      • Bob Smizik // October 19, 2017 at 2:00 PM //

        Once having been an offensive lineman, I would never downgrade their importance. My point was that I thought you overrated their importance. I just happen to believe that Bell and Brown were the most important offensive players for the Steelers against Kansas City. There was no attempt on my part to disrespect the offensive line.

    • Kelechi Anozie // October 19, 2017 at 11:27 AM //

      Just to add to what I said about DeCastro, you should look at this as well.

    • Bob Stover // October 19, 2017 at 11:37 AM //

      What is the world coming to? We are having a discussion about the best Steelers performance by an offensive lineman. Never thought I’d live to see the day.

      With respect to your remarks at A. V., I agree he played the better overall game, but he is not a pulling lineman, so perhaps the comparison is not valid?

  3. You have to actually understand the game to fully appreciate DeCastro.

  4. Bob Smizik // October 19, 2017 at 11:20 AM //

    No one is downgrading DeCastro.

    I think the people at Pro Football Focus `actually understand the game.”

    For myself, not having watched the game tape and not having any wish to do so, I freely admit I have no idea which of the offensive linemen played the best game.

    • Kelechi Anozie // October 19, 2017 at 11:35 AM //

      That is more than fine Bob, that’s people like myself are here for; to show you the details of the game that perhaps are not seen by ‘Pro Football Focus’. I generally do these film rooms to give you guys a different perspective that perhaps you may not have seen before; I believe it helps heighten the football experience for you guys.

      • Don Orris // October 19, 2017 at 1:28 PM //

        I’m not a former Steelers beat writer like Mr. Smizik but I do look at this in the same light.

        To his point, Kelechi, I didn’t take the comments to suggest DeCastro isn’t a key component to the Steelers offensive success. Nor did it suggest he didn’t have a great game.

        I took it in the context that while what you demonstrate is true DeCastro is still just one of five offensive linemen who all share in the success of the running game and the success in keeping Roethlisberger upright.

        I also think that Bell taking advantage of what the line in total provided, made him the more impactful force in that win. That said, I appreciate your insight as well.

        • Kelechi Anozie // October 19, 2017 at 2:23 PM //

          If we are talking about the run, from reviewing that game again; the people who made the biggest impact in assuring that Bell had the success he had were David DeCastro and Rosevelt Nix.

          The majority of the big gains he had in the game came from the Steelers running the Counter trey over and over; resulting in hug holes for Bell to run; the person that led the charge on all those plays was DeCastro.

          He was definitely my point of emphasis in this article as it pertains to his success on the ground. Overall, I appreciate each and every member that plays on that line, but since my focus was on the ground game, DeCastro was the most visible o-lineman from reviewing the game film.

          • Don Orris // October 19, 2017 at 3:21 PM //

            Fair enough, Kelechi. Thanks for the well written piece.

          • K.A., your point of DeCastro’s strong performance is well taken. But do really believe that lesser backs like James Conner and former Steeler Fitz Toussaint would have had a performance close to that of Le’Veon Bell? Perhaps D’Angelo Williams would have, but not J.C. or F.T.

        • Hi, Don. Nice to see you here. Nice homage to the old FOB Sports Site with your sign in picture. Getting through that Jim Beam?

        • Just to add to what you are saying Don, I don’t think it matters how well Decastro pulls if they don’t have an all-pro caliber running back to take advantage. Not everyone puts up the numbers Bell did last Sunday, no matter how the line plays.

          • Kelechi Anozie // October 20, 2017 at 9:07 AM //

            That is true to an extent, then again, the holes he and the offensive line were creating on Sunday, would have been big enough for you or I to run through.

            Keep in mind that’s not just the act of pulling, it is also the manner in which is able to locate the defender and neutralize them on the outside. For the outside linebacker, setting the edge is vital when playing the run. What DeCastro was doing to Justin Houston as seen in the first example, was to trap him inside; thus not even giving him the opportunity to touch him.

            When it comes to the counter/power plays that the Steelers run, they have been extremely effective at it because of people like DeCastro leading the counter and making the initial block to set everything in motion; if this is not done correctly, the counter play fails.

            Back in 2014 against the Bengals, they ran this counter play at will and the Bengals couldn’t handle it; DeCastro was the lead blocker on each of those counter plays.

            So I will say this, having an All-pro running back helps, but it’s not necessary if all the o-linemen are doing their assignment correctly and if the pulling guard knows what he’s doing.

    • Fair enough

  5. David DeAsstro……he pounded his pudd for most of the season, and then has a half-adequate game vs. KC. Sorry, I’m not buying the hype.

    • Kelechi Anozie // October 20, 2017 at 8:38 AM //

      Actually, he’s been the highest ranked guard in the NFL since September 29th. He’s not perfect BY any means but according to Pro Football Focus, he’s been among the best. This comment is precisely why I do game film, so that you can see the details that you may not always see. So trust me, when he gets nominated to another Pro Bowl, it won’t be because he’s ” pounded his pudd ” as you said for most of the season.

      • I’ve read PFF’s ratings over the years. They get about 35% correct, and the rest is fat and lard. DeAsstro will make the Blow Bowl — which in and of itself is a farce — based on reputation, not performance.

        • Kelechi Anozie // October 21, 2017 at 4:57 PM //

          Firstly, I’m sure you can make your points without unnecessary insults. Secondly, PFF makes a living evaluating each player in the NFL; their view point has much credibility than yours. Thirdly, there is a difference between fans that view games and ones that watch them; based on everything you’ve said, it’s apparent that you’re a viewer; not much more I can say. You’re entitled to your opinion but at the very least, show some respect when you post it. Thank you.

      • Bob Stover // October 23, 2017 at 4:57 PM //

        SteelVA is a known troll. He doesn’t regard any evidence that suggests that his innate hatred of the Steelers is wrong. If you’re smart, you won’t feed this particular troll.

  6. Very nice piece on Decastro, and on the finer points of his game last week.

  7. On the key 3d & 1 play vs. Cinci, early 4Q, that was Big David DeAsstro, the supposed “Pro Bowler”, on his ass, on the ground, doing NOTHING. The play was STOPPED short of the sticks. It’s apparent that you’re a viewer; not an analyst. Don’t let facts get in the way of gaudy, over-rated reputations.

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