Another Happy Ending for Steelers

Steelers get help from Browns in filling their greatest need with David DeCastro, perhaps the best offensive lineman in the draft. Jim Wexell explains.

The Cleveland Browns – if you really look at how the Steelers were able to land the best interior lineman, maybe the best overall offensive lineman, with the 24th pick last night – started this chain reaction when they decided to trade up one single solitary spot.

No, not last night. No, this chain reaction began in 2004 when the Browns traded a second-round pick to move up one spot to draft Kellen Winslow, Jr.

The Browns did this with Ben Roethlisberger, an Ohio kid, still on the board.

But it's a funny story that one Cleveland reporter likes to recall. Sitting in Davis's office one day during draft week, with the television on, ESPN ran a feature on Roethlisberger. The reporter asked Davis what he thought of Ben.

"Not a fan," muttered Davis.

And not a head coach. Davis was fired before the 2004 season was over. He was 3-8 with retread 34-year-old quarterback Jeff Garcia. The Steelers, meanwhile, were 10-1 with rookie quarterback Roethlisberger. It's been the bane of the Browns' existence lo these past eight seasons, so last night they tried to make up for it by drafting the newest and latest version of Roethlisberger.

First the Browns did their silly little giveaway to move up one spot, and then they drafted their big rookie quarterback with the 22nd pick. Only this rookie quarterback, Brandon Weeden, will turn 29 in October.

That's two-niner.

Has a baseball past.

But in fairness to the poor Browns, they chose Weeded in a flummoxed state. They wanted RGIII's wide receiver, Kendall Wright, but those mean Tennessee Titans took him at pick 20.

Reeling, the Browns forgot to look at their draft board and instead took a big swing for Roethlisberger. And, hey, Weeden's only a year younger.

Who knows? Maybe Ben and Brandon will turn out to be friends some day. Or maybe Brandon will back Ben up one day here in Pittsburgh as the poor Browns try out another coach/general manager/president.

I only joke because I care. It's just that this story illustrates again the difference between the winners and the losers in the NFL. Teams like the Browns feel the need to take mighty swings, make risky picks, picks to help them win now.

The Steelers are comfortable enough to play it the right way. Kevin Colbert's not going anywhere. He doesn't have to draft someone to help win a division today instead of a Super Bowl tomorrow. Colbert can play it this way because his coach isn't going anywhere, either.

It's called stability. It's the reason the Steelers can draft 21-year-olds to last three contracts even after shaky starts. It's the reason the Steelers don't have to throw picks away in order to move up one spot and take "The Warrior" of the moment.

Of course, the Steelers had ideas of moving up to draft David DeCastro. He's that good. But they saw a large group of first-round types falling with DeCastro. The stable, patient Steelers waited, unwed to any particular need.

The texts and emails and calls started blowing up my phone at or around pick 15:

"Should the Steelers trade up for DeCastro?"

My stock answer: No. The other guard, Kevin Zeitler, is almost as good. Save the third-round pick and be happy with Zeitler. Cincinnati will draft DeCastro.

Well, Cincinnati didn't draft DeCastro. In fact, they played it my way. They passed on DeCastro, traded down six spots, picked up an additional third-round pick, and drafted Zeitler.

Instead of the extra third-round pick, the Steelers have the better player. Even a journalist can accept that with a bit of glee. As I was putting up a cutline for last night's photo, that glee struck as I typed, "David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers."

How good is he? Here's a sampling:

"DeCastro is regarded as one of the finest pulling guards to enter the league in years." – Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in predicting DeCastro would be selected 11th.

"He's the pick for a Bengals offense that needs to run the ball effectively to achieve consistency." – Greg Cosell, celebrated film junkie and analyst for NFL Films.

"There hasn't been a guard this good since either Steve Hutchinson or Alan Faneca. … I'd love to see him in a zone scheme but in Stanford's power scheme he clearly dominated." – Larry Zierlein, former Steelers line coach turned draft analyst.

Zierlein was burdened with a difficult array of linemen during his stint in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers patiently drafted their board. But he was a good judge talent. Here are some of his other blurbs about DeCastro:

"The prototype … will fit a power scheme as well as jump right into a zone scheme … great on combination blocks … can move up to second level and bury linebackers … others in this draft occupy LBs, he plants them … strong base … very rarely missed an assignment."

That's music to the ears of a serious fan who's watched Chris Kemoeatu plant linebackers as often as he's blown assignments. It's music to the ears of the current line coach who's been integrating more zone with the traditional Steelers power schemes, and now has the athletes.

Hey, David DeCastro isn't the kind of sexy pick you go home and tell your spouse and kids about. You really can't expect the marginal fan to share in the joy of landing the best pulling guard in the draft.

But we can tell them the Steelers just robbed the NFL draft cradle again, and they did it by … doing nothing.

Stability's the key. Knee-jerking for name recognition and scrambling to make up for previous mistakes only causes you drown in the quicksand. Ask the poor fans in Cleveland.

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