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Zach Banner says he's blessed to call David DeCastro a 'big brother' and 'mentor'

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

The Steelers announced yesterday that they released veteran Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro, and the news was somewhat of a surprise, but there was speculation that something was up with DeCastro as he didn't participate in minicamp last week.

It was revealed soon after his release that DeCastro has been having issues with his ankle for quite some time. He had surgery before last season and he texted Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he has to get surgery on his ankle for the third time.

"I tried to fix it last year but the bone spurs kept coming back, DeCastro told Starkey." It nagged me pretty bad all last year.”

Starkey followed up by asking DeCastro if he still wants to play.

“Gotta see how the surgery goes,” he said. “But I’d have no problem calling it a day and moving on with my life.”

DeCastro has been a staple on the Steelers offensive line for the last nine years and was named to six Pro Bowls along with being selected as first-team All-Pro twice. Many of his teammates expressed their gratitude to DeCastro on social media after it was announced that he was released by the Steelers.

Zach Banner, who played next to DeCastro on the right side, was one of the players who was hit the hardest by the news.

"I'm blessed to call Dave a big brother of mine and a mentor of mine," Banner said. "I've known obviously longer behind the scenes about ( Maurkice Pouncey), about Dave and about (Alejandro Villanueva). And in the back of mind, I was really hoping, and not begging because it's not my story, it's not my situation, I'm here to support them in all they do. But at the same time, I was just really hoping for at least one more year with Dave to play next to him. And I know that last year was supposed to be that year and I ended up getting hurt.

"To talk about Dave specifically, you know, there's really a couple of different players that I've been around in this league and gotten to know that are like Dave. Luke Kuechly is one of them, Andrew Luck is the other. They're the type of people that have played at such a high level -- high school, college, in the pros. They've done it for so long, and they're so good at it, and they're so blessed, but when you sit around with them and you eat dinner with them, and you drink wine, and you break bread with them, you'll realize that's not the only thing that they've got going for them."

DeCastro went to Stanford and graduated with a management sciences/engineering degree, so he's definitely a smart guy. Banner touched on DeCastro's wisdom and his legacy as a Steeler.

"Dave is one of the smartest human beings I have ever been around," Banner said. "And one of the things that he said to me, this was a couple of years ago, is the fact that no matter how good you play this game, it's a matter of time -- yes, there's those yinzer fans, those Steelers fans that are fanatics and they know every player on the roster. They know every year that they've played, it goes back to when the team was created in the '30s. But at the same time when you die, on your gravestone, your football statistics and your football accolades and everything like that are not going to go on there, and what is it that people are going to remember you about?

"So, it's not so much about Dave not having the passion about it anymore. But injuries take a certain mindset and a certain attack process, right? You got to ask yourself. And I think on top of that his boy leaving (Villanueva) and being the only OG left in that group, that might have had a factor into it, as well. But when I tell you that this man cares about his family and his life and his lifestyle after football way more than he cares about football, that's not a knock on him. I mean, he's a future gold jacket guy alongside with Pounce in my opinion. He couldn't have done it better. He left his legacy. Everybody was talking about it yesterday, I just sent him a simple text and said, 'I love you bro.' He said, 'I love you too. Keep working on that knee. I'm proud of you. I'll be watching you all season. If you need anything hit me.'"

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