A lifelong Seahawks fan, the Stanford All-American will now try to keep Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger healthy.
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t expect David DeCastro to be available with the 24th pick in the NFL draft.
Yet as the names were rattled off and the Stanford All-American’s wasn’t called, general manager Kevin Colbert started to get optimistic.
“We said there were a few special players in this draft, and he was one of them,” Colbert said of the 6-foot-5, 316-pound lineman, who starred at Bellevue High School.
The Steelers took the DeCastro, hoping he’ll help keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger healthy. Pittsburgh allowed 42 sacks last season.
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“This kid’s an exceptional player,” Colbert said. “This kid is all business and no-nonsense.”
DeCastro started 39 games in three seasons with the Cardinal while blocking for quarterback Andrew Luck.
Colbert said the pro-style offense Stanford runs should help DeCastro make a quick transition to the NFL. Though he was a solid pass protector — not giving up a sack or a pressure as a junior — the Steelers think DeCastro is even more effective run blocker.
“When you watch (Stanford) run the football, 80 percent of the time David DeCastro was leading the way,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said.
Though DeCastro played exclusively right guard, Tomlin believes DeCastro can swing between either guard spot. He will compete with veterans Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky and Trai Essex for a starting job after the team released veteran Chris Kemoeatu as part of a salary purge.
It’s a fight the Steelers think DeCastro can win as they recalibrate their offense under new coordinator Todd Haley, who turned the Chiefs into one of the league’s best running teams during his brief two-plus seasons in Kansas City.
DeCastro is the second offensive lineman drafted in the first round by the Steelers in the last three years. They took center Maurkice Pouncey in the 2010 Draft, and the former Florida star made the Pro Bowl as a rookie while helping Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl. The Steelers also took tackle Marcus Gilbert in the second round last year.
Though he was rated among the top 15 picks by most experts, DeCastro says he began the night with no expectations. He doesn’t consider his slide to No. 24 a shot to his ego, but an opportunity to join an elite team — even if the lifelong Seahawks fan used to root against Pittsburgh.
“I wasn’t the biggest Steelers fan growing up after they beat us in (the 2006) Super Bowl,” DeCastro said. “Now I’m the biggest Steeler fan there is.”
The feeling appears to be mutual.
Tomlin said it was “fun” to evaluate DeCastro, pointing out he was prepared for everything thrown at him during workouts. Toss in the way DeCastro anchored a unit considered one of the best in the country and the Steelers believe he fits the mold of what Pittsburgh is looking for in a lineman.
“He was the unquestioned leader of a very veteran group,” Tomlin said. “We’re excited about putting him in the fold.”
Given all the movement at the top of the first round, Colbert allowed he took a few phone calls before making the selection but just laughed when asked if he considered any trade offers.
“I’ll leave that up to the imagination,” he said.
Pittsburgh has nine more picks over the next two days to address other needs, including nose tackle and linebacker.