NFL Nation: david decastro

PITTSBURGH -- Observed in the locker room after the Pittsburgh Steelers' 30-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens:
  • Ben Roethlisberger put the loss on himself after he threw for 334 yards and a touchdown but was also intercepted twice. "I didn't play well enough to win, and guys look at me as the leader and the quarterback to make plays and I didn't do that," the 11-year veteran said. "I want to apologize to the fans, my teammates, to the organization, to the Rooneys and to the coaches. I wish that I could apologize to everybody individually." Roethlisberger said the individual numbers he put up while leading the Steelers to the AFC North title mean little to him. Roethlisberger shared the NFL passing title (4,952 yards) with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and also set several Steelers season records. "I don't really care about what I did," Roethlisberger said. "I'm proud of the way that this team bounced back from the last two years and got back to the playoffs. I'm proud of the way a lot of the young guys stepped up."
  • Nothing better symbolized how crushing a season-ending loss can be than the sight of defensive end Cameron Heyward hugging Brett Keisel before the latter left the Steelers locker room at Heinz Field for perhaps the final time. Keisel missed the last four games after sustaining a triceps injury and there is a question of whether the Steelers will bring the veteran back for a 14th season. Heyward wanted to win for Keisel, who has been his mentor, and he had a hard time letting go -- both literally and figuratively -- as Keisel exited the locker room after the Steelers' first playoff loss to the Ravens. "He's meant so much to me," said Heyward, who had wiped away tears after a long embrace with Keisel. "It just sucks going out this way. I'd love to have him back but we just don't know what that entails."
  • Reaction in the Steelers' locker room ranged from dazed to stunned after Pittsburgh was ushered out of the postseason by its biggest rival. And from Roethlisberger to coach Mike Tomlin and an assortment of players, the Steelers were candid in their assessment that they did not deserve to beat the Ravens. "We just got beat," Tomlin said. "We didn't make enough critical plays and they did." David DeCastro agreed. "We felt we were on a roll," the right guard said after suffering his first playoff loss. "We felt we could play with anybody and we know we can play with anybody. We just didn't prove it today."
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a unique position for roughly half the players on their 53-man roster.

They will play meaningful games in late December -- or at least ones where they don't need a ton of help to get in the playoffs.

The Steelers will clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Heinz Field. That makes this stretch run unique for young players such as running back Le'Veon Bell, left tackle Kelvin Beachum, right guard David DeCastro and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.

They are among the players who joined the Steelers after 2011, the last time Pittsburgh made the playoffs. More than 20 players on the Steelers' roster have never participated in a playoff game. Only 18 players on the roster have played in a postseason contest for Pittsburgh.

That dynamic in a locker room once brimming with veterans who knew what it took to prepare for and play in games in which the stakes are considerable is not lost on Mike Tomlin.

“I acknowledge it’s been a number of years since we’ve been in a significant chase with a number of our young guys,” the eighth-year Steelers coach said Tuesday. “We’ve got a number of young guys who have played quite a bit of football for us and are playing significant roles for us. Guys like Bell, guys like Kelvin Beachum, guys like Jarvis Jones that haven’t been in this position a bunch.

So I’m watching those guys and watching them closely, and I like the way they’re wearing the urgency of these moments. They’re utilizing it for good. They’re not being consumed by it. They’re staying singularly focused at the task at hand as they should.”

What's interesting to note is that the AFC playoff field could be filled after this week’s games.

The New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts have already won their respective divisions.

The Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are also in, according to ESPN Stats & Information, if the Steelers beat the Chiefs, the Bengals beat the Broncos, the Ravens beat the Houston Texans and the San Francisco 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers.
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said Thursday that linebacker Lawrence Timmons is deserving of a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley essentially said the same thing about right guard David DeCastro.

DeCastro has emerged as one of the better guards in the NFL, and the 2012 first-round draft pick was a big reason why Le'Veon Bell gashed the Cincinnati Bengals for 185 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 42-21 win last Sunday.

Bell ran behind a pulling DeCastro early and often, and Haley said DeCastro would have been the first one he singled out for praise after the Steelers’ eighth win of the season.

"The Bengals’ guys were tired of seeing him coming around by the end of the game," Haley said.

DeCastro might face a numbers crunch as far as making the Pro Bowl.

Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown are locks to make the team. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey are strong candidates to earn Pro Bowl nods.

Will the Steelers place more than four offensive players on the team?

Timmons faces a different problem.

The Steelers’ defense has struggled this season and might not send any players to the Pro Bowl.

Timmons, however, has been a stabilizing force on a unit that has been scrambled by injuries.

The eighth-year veteran started his 66th-consecutive regular-season game last Sunday and leads the Steelers with 104 tackles.

Timmons has recorded at least 10 tackles in six games this season.

"I’ve said the last several years that he plays at a Pro Bowl-level, and I feel that he’s doing that again," LeBeau said. "He’s a very, very good player. He does a lot of things for us. I think he can go and play with any group of athletes and hold his own, whether it’s across the ocean over there in Hawaii or this Sunday where we’re going to need him."

QB snapshot: Ben Roethlisberger

December, 9, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- A quick observation of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and how he played in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 42-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14.

Roethlisberger stayed patient in a game that Pittsburgh approached with a playoff mindset. It paid off big time as the Steelers scored 25 fourth-quarter points to blow past the Bengals.

Roethlisberger, who threw for just 19 yards in the first quarter, allowed the Steelers' running game to set up the Bengals defense for shots down the field later on.

The 11th-year veteran and the Steelers should take the same approach Sunday in Atlanta.

The Falcons have struggled against the run -- they are yielding 118.3 rushing yards per game -- and they will be on high alert at the Georgia Dome for Le'Veon Bell, who has gone over 200 all-purpose yards in three consecutive games.

The Bengals could not stop Bell, who rushed for 185 yards and ran early and often behind pulling right guard David DeCastro, and Roethlisberger and the passing game took advantage of that.

Roethlisberger completed 5 of 7 throws for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns on play-action passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

His 94-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the fourth quarter broke open the game, and a play-action fake to Bell set up the second-longest pass play in Steelers history.

Roethlisberger completed 25 of 39 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Steelers to their eighth win of the season. He did not force throws, and that approach is why the Bengals did not pick off Big Ben.

"The biggest thing was not turning the ball over," Roethlisberger said after the Steelers erupted for 42 points in the final three quarters against the Bengals.

Roethlisberger, who has thrown five of his eight interceptions in road games, and the Steelers should not deviate from the formula that worked so well in Cincinnati.

The Falcons' defense is atrocious, and it was on its heels the entire time Monday night in a lopsided loss at Green Bay.

The Steelers should make a commitment to the ground game Sunday, as they did by using two tight ends and a fullback or two tight ends against the Bengals, and let the run set up the pass.

In other words, the Steelers should not outsmart themselves in Atlanta.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Running back Le'Veon Bell has now saved the Pittsburgh Steelers twice on "Monday Night Football," and the second-year man was a little less subtle about it this time.

Bell's 43-yard catch-and-run against the Houston Texans in Week 7 served as the catalyst for 24 unanswered points that propelled the Steelers to their first of three consecutive wins.

On Monday, Bell simply pounded the upstart Tennessee Titans into submission when the Steelers again found themselves on the precipice.

The Steelers were trailing by 11 points in the third quarter when offensive coordinator Todd Haley finally got out of his own way and called one run after another for Bell.

Recommitting to the run, which the Steelers got away from when they blew an early 10-point lead, allowed them to rally for a 27-24 win and avert what would have been a disastrous loss.

[+] EnlargeBell
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsLe'Veon Bell rushed 33 times for 204 yards and a touchdown on Monday against the Titans.
The timing of Bell's 204-yard outburst, which came courtesy of the block party the Steelers' offensive line threw at frosty LP Field, couldn't have been better, for several reasons.

The Steelers go into their bye week with a 7-4 record and in pretty decent position in both the AFC North and AFC playoff picture, despite their maddening propensity to play down to their competition.

They did that again against the Titans, before Bell and the offensive line grabbed control of the game, while Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak watched with what had to be a most satisfied smile.

Munchak spent more than 30 years with the Oilers/Titans as a player and a coach before he was fired as the team's head coach this past January.

The play of the line, after a shaky stretch in which they could not keep the Titans off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, showed why the hiring of Munchak was considered one of the Steelers' most significant offseason acquisitions.

The Steelers turned to the run after falling behind 24-13, and the Titans couldn't stop them, even though they knew it was coming.

That proved to be the case when the Steelers drove 72 yards in eight plays and scored a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter to cut the Titans' lead to four points. That proved to be the case midway through the final quarter, when the Steelers got the ball back while nursing a three-point lead.

They ran 10 plays, eight of them runs by Bell, before Roethlisberger took a couple knees to end the game.

"Maybe two or three different plays we were running, but we were executing at a high level," Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said. "I heard a couple of guys say, ‘They keep running the ball over here. We've got to stop it.'"

They couldn't because Bell and the offensive line worked so well together that they produced the football equivalent of finishing each other's sentences. The line provided a consistent push and openings for Bell, even when Tennessee started stacking players close to the line of scrimmage.

Bell, meanwhile, exploited any cracks that surfaced in the Titans' defense.

The 196 yards he gained between the tackles were the most by any NFL back this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"I love running the ball, but those guys love running the ball more than me -- that's the craziest part," Bell said of the Steelers' offensive line. "Those guys kept moving guys off the ball and making my job easy."

Rushing yards had not come easy for Bell recently, even during the three-game win streak. He rushed for a combined 169 yards in those games. Add in the 36 yards he managed in a 20-13 loss to the New York Jets, and Bell averaged 51.3 rushing yards in his previous four games.

That stretch seemed like a distant memory when right guard David DeCastro talked about what a "blast" it was for the Steelers to impose their will on the Titans -- just when it seemed their season would get away from them.

Bell couldn't stop smiling as he talked about an offensive line that allowed him to record just the fifth 200-yard rushing game in Steelers history. That was one of many superlatives the 2013 second-round draft pick produced on a night when the Steelers had to win any way possible but ultimately did so on their terms.

"We don't have enough time to talk about what [Bell] did tonight," Roethlisberger said. "I'm so proud of the way he bounces back. Catches the ball, runs the ball, power, finesse. When he runs, it's like poetry in motion."

PITTSBURGH – Heath Miller flashed open near the goal line and caught a pass that Ben Roethlisberger floated just enough for Tampa Bay Buccaneers Eric Wright to deliver a crunching blow in the end zone.

 Wright was penalized 15 yards for the helmet to helmet hit, but Miller’s touchdown was negated by an offsetting penalty.

Three plays after Kelvin Beachum's hold wiped out Miller’s first touchdown of the season, the veteran tight end caught a 5-yard scoring pass, holding onto the ball after getting sandwiched by a pair of Buccaneers defensive players.

And what did Miller do after scoring twice and twice paying the price for one touchdown?


Not even a spike of the football.

The 10th-year veteran simply celebrated with his teammates and then jogged to the sidelines even though Miller was obviously pumped -- or at least as pumped as you will ever see Miller, who makes even keel look like an exaggerated zigzag.

If any of his teammates have an inclination to do the kind of celebrating that has them watched by coach Mike Tomlin, they would do well to remember three words: Be like Heath.

And Roethlisberger said that credo extends well beyond conduct after making a big play.

“He’s an example we all should follow, in life and in football, because he’s a class act and someone we all are better to know,” Roethlisberger said of Miller.

David DeCastro agreed.

“I think Ben hit it right on the head. All he does is come in and work hard,” the Steelers right guard said. “Doesn’t say much, leads by example, good family man as well.”

Doesn’t say much would be an understatement.

When asked if Miller ever talks in the huddle, Roethlisberger smiled.

“Very, very rarely,” Big Ben said. “If I call the wrong play, he’ll tell me.”

“He’ll give you a fist pound or ‘Let’s go’ but it’s usually pretty short and sweet,” DeCastro added.

DeCastro said he has never heard Miller curse or trash talk an opponent.

“He doesn’t need to,” DeCastro said. “He lets his pads do his talking.”

Indeed, Miller caught a career-high 10 passes for 85 yards and the touchdown in the 27-24 loss to the Buccaneers. The sequence in which he got belted twice while making end zone grabs showed why Miller is so trusted by his quarterback.

“He’s mentally tough, he’s physically tough. He gives everything he has every single day, in meetings, in practice and the game,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s what makes him so special and what makes it an honor to play with a guy like that.”

The Film Don't Lie: Steelers

September, 23, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- A weekly look at what the Steelers must fix:

Penalties continue to plague the Steelers, and they have to be more disciplined if they want to challenge for supremacy in the AFC -- or even just the AFC North, where the Bengals are off to a 3-0 start and playing as well as any team in the NFL.

The Steelers have committed 31 penalties; only the San Francisco 49ers have been flagged more through the first three weeks of the season.

The Steelers were penalized 11 times for 91 yards in their 37-19 win over the Carolina Panthers.

They established a trend of dumb penalties early when they were flagged for having too many men in the huddle on the second play of the game.

The head-scratching penalties didn’t end there.

David DeCastro nearly cost the Steelers at the end of the first half when the right guard shoved Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly after the whistle had blown the play dead, earning an unnecessary roughness penalty. The Steelers got most of those yards back on the following play, setting up a Shaun Suisham field goal at the end of the first half.

The good news for the Steelers is the penalties they accumulated Sunday night weren’t the result of getting overpowered or not having the speed to play with Carolina.

The Steelers’ offensive line was flagged just once for holding, and the pass interference penalties called against the Steelers were on tight ends Matt Spaeth and Michael Palmer.

The Steelers simply need to play smarter to clean up the penalties, something that coach Mike Tomlin is sure to emphasize this week as they prepare for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Pouncey, Polamalu crack top 100

August, 25, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- Two more Pittsburgh Steelers surfaced on’s list of the top 100 NFL players for both offense and defense.

Center Maurkice Pouncey is No. 42 on offense and strong safety Troy Polamalu is No. 46 on defense.

Polamalu dropped 13 spots from his 2013 ranking after the Steelers slipped to No. 13 in total defense last season, when they had trouble stopping the run and were vulnerable to big plays. Polamalu still made his eighth Pro Bowl in 2013 after finishing third on the Steelers with 85 tackles, forcing a career-high five fumbles and tying for the team lead with two interceptions.

Polamalu, who is entering his 12th season, played every snap last season.

Pouncey, was on the other end of the spectrum in 2013, missing all but eight snaps after tearing several ligaments in his right knee, including his ACL.

The three-time Pro Bowler was hurt when teammate David DeCastro crashed into his lower leg after missing a cut block in the Steelers’ season opener against the visiting Tennessee Titans.

Pouncey has since made a full recovery, and the Steelers signed the fifth-year veteran to a five-year, $44 million contract in June, making him one of the highest paid players at his position.

Pouncey, who moved up 12 spots from his 2013 ranking, is ahead of centers such as Carolina's Ryan Kalil (No. 47) and the the Jets' Nick Mangold (No. 49).

Lawrence Timmons No. 77 in rankings

August, 20, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau would probably take issue with where linebacker Lawrence Timmons ranks among the NFL’s top 100 defensive players, according to

Timmons, a player whom LeBeau has said should have made several Pro Bowls by now, is No. 77, falling 15 spots from his 2013 ranking.

It’s hard to imagine why Timmons dropped so much considering the season he had in 2013. The eighth-year veteran led the Steelers with 155 tackles, tied for the team lead with two interceptions and also recorded three sacks. Granted, it was a down year for the Steelers' defense, but Timmons excelled despite playing alongside a rookie (Vince Williams) who was feeling his way at weakside inside linebacker for much of the season.

Timmons is versatile and durable -- the former first-round pick has started 53 consecutive regular season games -- and he is the Steelers’ best player on defense.

In another ranking, a handful of Steelers showed up on ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando’s list of 50 players poised to break out Insider this season, including right guard David DeCastro (No. 3) and running back Le'Veon Bell (No. 9).

Here is what Sando wrote about DeCastro:
  • DeCastro was quite proficient as a run-blocker while playing 15 games last season after a knee injury wiped out his 2012 rookie campaign. He has a shot at ascending among the best guards in the league if he can stay on the field.

Here is Sando’s take on Bell:
  • Lots of people in the league believe the Steelers are primed for a big season, and Bell figures to play a prominent role in their success after a foot injury slowed him as a rookie in 2013. Look for the goal-line carries to go to LeGarrette Blount, however (consider that an alert to fantasy owners).

Also showing up on Sando’s list are defensive end Cameron Heyward (No. 26) and outside linebacker Jason Worilds (No. 27).

All-AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers

January, 2, 2014
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Steelers placed six players on’s All-AFC North team, including unanimous selections in wide receiver Antonio Brown and outside linebacker Jason Worilds. First, some background on how the team was selected. All four ESPN NFL Nation reporters who cover the respective teams in the AFC North on a daily basis voted on the squad, and we voted based on players’ specific positions in the case of the offensive line. That is why David DeCastro and Marshal Yanda are not the guards on the team. Both play right guard, and DeCastro got the nod over Yanda even though the latter has been voted to the Pro Bowl.

Wide receiver and inside linebacker were clearly the strength of the division. Brown, A.J. Green and Josh Gordon were all unanimous picks at wide receiver. All three are headed to the Pro Bowl and deservedly so. Lawrence Timmons had a Pro Bowl-caliber season, but he didn’t make the All-AFC North team because of the depth at inside linebacker. I voted for Timmons but can’t quibble with the selections of Daryl Smith and Vontaze Burfict. Each had outstanding seasons. Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham makes the team in most other divisions but had no chance against Justin Tucker. Cameron Heyward stated his case at defensive end with a breakout season. But he didn’t become a starter until the fifth game of the season, and Bengals defensive ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap were the picks at the position.

Rookie Le’Veon Bell justified his pick at running back with a strong finish that included 214 of his 860 rushing yards in the Steelers’ final two games. He is one of the main reasons why the Steelers are so excited about their offense heading into the offseason. Ben Roethlisberger was the obvious choice at quarterback. The 10-year veteran played every snap and had one of the best statistical seasons of his career. Roethlisberger is almost a lock to be added to the Pro Bowl squad, assuming a couple of the quarterbacks voted to the team bow out because their team has made the Super Bowl or are nursing an injury.

Pro Bowl selections: Pittsburgh Steelers

December, 27, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Wide receiver and team MVP Antonio Brown and strong safety Troy Polamalu were the two Pittsburgh Steelers selected to the Pro Bowl.

The team was selected after a vote by players, coaches and fans and, as usual, it stirred immediate debate. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and right guard David DeCastro were among the Steelers' most notable omissions. The Browns placed five players on the team -- most in the AFC North -- even though they only have four victories.

Brown makes the Pro Bowl for the second time and first as a wide receiver. His selection was a no-brainer as Brown has already set a Steelers record for receiving yards in a season (1,412) and has an outside chance of breaking Hines Ward's franchise record for receptions in a season.

Brown needs 12 catches Sunday against the Browns to surpass the 112 receptions Ward had in 2002. He is third in the NFL in both catches and receiving yards.

Polamalu made the Pro Bowl for an eighth time, and he has played every game this season after missing nine last season because of a calf injury. Polamalu is tied for the Steelers lead in interceptions (two) and passes defensed (12).

Polamalu is tied for second in the AFC with five forced fumbles and he is third on the Steelers with 81 tackles.

Roethlisberger was not one of six quarterbacks voted to the Pro Bowl -- the teams were selected regardless of conference for the first time -- even though he is having one of the best seasons of his career.

Roethlisberger, who became the Steelers’ all-time leader in touchdown passes earlier this season, has already set a franchise record for completions (356) in a season. He needs 247 passing yards on Sunday to break the record he set in 2009 for passing yards in a season (4.328).

Russell Wilson and Cam Newton were among the quarterbacks who made the Pro Bowl ahead of Roethlisberger, and it’s hard to argue with either pick given the success of their respective teams.

Roethlisberger will almost surely get added to the team as players bow out due to injuries or the fact that their team is playing in the Super Bowl, which is a week after the Pro Bowl.

DeCastro is also a strong candidate to get added to the Pro Bowl at a later date. The second-year man has established himself as one of the top guard in the NFL in his first full season as a starter.

The Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 26 in Honolulu.

A draft will be held Jan. 22 as captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will pick their respective teams among those who made the Pro Bowl.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

Emmanuel Sanders a game-time decision

December, 27, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders practiced Friday and will be a game-time decision Sunday in what could be his final contest with the Steelers.

Sanders (knee) and outside linebacker Jason Worilds (abdomen) are listed as questionable for the 1 p.m. ET game against the visiting Browns. Linebacker Terence Garvin (knee) is the only Steelers player who has been ruled out for the regular-season finale at Heinz Field.

Worilds practiced on a limited basis Friday while Sanders was listed as a full participant in drills.

“Right now I’m 50-50,” said Sanders, who sprained his knee last Sunday while making a cut on the muddy turf at Lambeau Field. “I practiced today and the pain was bearable.”

Sanders said he will play Sunday if he can’t make the injury any worse.

“I’ve always played through injuries no matter what,” said Sanders, who has played in every game this season and caught 65 passes for 714 yards and six touchdowns. “I’m not going to hold anything back, and that’s always been my mentality.

Sanders will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and he is among a handful of Steelers players who face an uncertain future.

In addition to Sanders, right guard David DeCastro (back) practiced on Friday after missing drills the previous day. DeCastro said his back won’t limit him against the Browns, who will be without starting nose tackle Phil Taylor (concussion).

"Back's fine," DeCastro said. “I’m good to go."

DeCastro, defensive end Brett Keisel (foot), outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (illness), wide receiver Markus Wheaton (finger), safety Troy Polamalu and tight end Heath Miller are all listed as probable for Sunday.

Sanders, Worilds out again for Steelers

December, 26, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Outside linebacker Jason Worilds and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders have yet to practice this week, making Friday critical for each player regarding his availability for the Pittsburgh Steelers' regular-season finale.

Worilds is trying to come back from an abdomen injury and a stinger, while Sanders will try to play through a sprained knee Sunday when the Steelers host the Browns.

Sanders said earlier this week that his knee has to get strong enough for him to have confidence cutting on it.

“We’ve still got time and he’s working hard to give himself a chance to come out and play,” Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “He’s a competitive guy that wants to be part of this and part of having a chance to win Sunday.”

In addition to Worilds and Sanders, right guard David DeCastro (back) and linebacker Terence Garvin (knee) did not practice on Thursday. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (illness), defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) and wide receiver Markus Wheaton (finger) were full participants in practice.

The Steelers appear to be bringing Worilds along slowly after he missed most of the second half of their win at Green Bay last Sunday. His injuries and the absence of Jones – he had been scratched after getting sick the night before the game – led the Steelers to start Chris Carter at outside linebacker and play Stevenson Sylvester extensively at left outside linebacker.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said he hopes Worilds’ playing time on Sunday isn’t limited.

“But Chris will get some snaps and so will Sly,” LeBeau said. “”They’ll all four play.”

Offensive line could become a strength

December, 17, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers' offensive line has been beaten up in more ways than one ever since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007.

Could the oft-maligned unit become a reason why the Steelers win next season? Don't scoff.

David DeCastro has emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber guard this season. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey is expected to return in 2014 from a torn ACL. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum has played well enough that the Steelers may not have to target the position with their first pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

[+] EnlargePittsburgh's offensive line
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarThe Steelers have a strong offensive line to build upon if they can ever stay healthy.
“The biggest problem with the offensive line,” former NFL scout and ESPN analyst Matt Williamson said, “is they can't ever start the same five guys.”

Injuries have long been the X factor along the offensive line and any optimistic forecast for its future has to come with the caveat that the Steelers, for whatever reason, cannot stay healthy up front.

Assume for the sake of argument that the line isn't as wracked by injuries next season as it has been in recent years. DeCastro, Pouncey and left guard Ramon Foster would give them a strong interior around which to build.

That is especially true in the case of DeCastro, whom Williamson said has already established himself as one of the top five or six guards in the NFL.

“He doesn't have a major weakness,” Williamson said. “He can run the power stuff. He can pass block. There's a lot to like about him.”

Williamson echoed similar sentiments about Beachum, who took over at left tackle after the fourth game of the season and has earned glowing praise from offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

The 6-3, 306-pound Beachum is not a prototypical left tackle, and teams generally find protectors for their quarterback's blind side near the beginning of the draft not the end of it.

But Beachum, a late seventh-round pick in 2012, is proving to be the exception to several rules.

“I'm starting to come around on him,” Williamson said. “He might he good enough and he seems to be getting better.”

The 2014 draft is supposed to be deep at offensive tackle, and if the Steelers use their first pick on a potential franchise left tackle, Beachum would still have a key role on the team -- whether he serves as a super sub who can play all five positions or bolsters the line at another position.

The play of DeCastro and Beachum this season is the biggest reason for optimism for the offensive line, and Mike Adams still has time to develop into a long-term starter up front, whether it is at left or right tackle.

Injuries can scramble the offensive line throughout the season as the Steelers well know. But the investment they have made in their line in recent drafts could really start to pay off next season.

If the group can stay relatively healthy.

Brett Keisel out again for Steelers

December, 13, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers will be without starting defensive end Brett Keisel for at least another week.

A nagging foot injury will sideline the 12-year veteran for the Steelers' Sunday night game against the Bengals. Keisel has played just one game since hurting his foot in the Steelers' 23-10 win over the Bills more than a month ago.

The Steelers are relatively healthy for their second game of the season against the Bengals.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu practiced Friday after sitting out the first two practices of the week because of a shoulder injury. He is among seven players who are listed as probable for the 8:30 p.m. ET game Sunday at Heinz Field.

Kelvin Beachum is also listed as probable after missing last Sunday's game with a knee injury. Barring a setback, the second-year player will start at left tackle against the Bengals.

Also probable are wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders (foot) and Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle), right guard David DeCastro (foot) and defensive end Ziggy Hood (ankle).

Nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) is listed as questionable.