As Bruce Irvin misses another game and David DeCastro comes to town with the Pittsburgh Steelers this week, it’s a great opportunity to show you how the Seahawks could have put together a very good offensive line by now — if they really wanted to.
It all starts with DeCastro, a Bellevue native who has played some very good guard for the Steelers ever since they drafted him in the first round in 2012.
He should have been Seattle’s choice — as we said then.
But the Seahawks were determined to add a speedy pass rusher, even if it meant reaching in the first round yet again. After Carolina drafted Luke Kuechly at No. 9 overall, the Hawks moved down from No. 12 to 15 and reached for Irvin, who was considered a first-round prospect by only a couple other teams. The Steelers grabbed DeCastro with the 24th pick.
Irvin has been a decent role player as a linebacker/pass rusher (21 sacks in 52 games), but the Seahawks would have been smarter to go with DeCastro, who has turned into a solid player for Pittsburgh. He missed 12 games as a rookie due to a knee injury, but he has been excellent the past two-plus seasons. He has just two penalties and one sack allowed this season, and he has helped lead the way for the NFL’s No. 6 offense.
“David was pretty mature when he got here,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “He’s the same guy he was that we drafted. But really that was one of the reasons why we were attracted to him. It was very little guesswork. He was a mature player. The things that we were going to ask him to do we saw him do on Stanford tape. He has not disappointed in any way. He’s a quality, quality player and guy for us.”
He has been so good the Steelers did not hesitate to pick up his $8 million option for 2016. The Seahawks, meanwhile, declined to pick up Irvin’s $7.75 million option. That should tell you who made the better first-round choice in 2012.
The Seahawks did pick a guard in 2012, but it was defensive line convert J.R. Sweezy (in the seventh round). And they have cycled through five left guards since 2012, including converted right tackle Justin Britt — a second-round reach in 2014 — this year.
DeCastro could have been the start of a great run on linemen for the Seahawks. If they had really wanted to construct a talented offensive line on the order of the Dallas Cowboys’ stellar young group, the Seahawks could have.
In 2013, when they wasted a second-round pick on Christine Michael, they could have had Larry Warford (now Detroit’s right guard) or Terron Armstead (New Orleans’ left tackle) in the second.
In 2014, when they moved down from No. 32 to draft Paul Richardson and then reached for Britt later in the second round, they could have had Joel Bitonio (now Cleveland’s top-notch left guard) and also done better than Britt at the end of the second round, picking from among Morgan Moses (Washington’s right tackle), Travis Swanson (Detroit’s center) or Gabe Jackson (Oakland’s left guard).
If they had chosen to build their O-line with talent, it could now include LT Russell Okung, LG Bitonio, RG DeCastro, RT Armstead and one of Moses/Jackson/Swanson — with the latter four forming the core for 2016 and beyond.
To build the unit, the Seahawks merely would have had to pass on Irvin, Michael, Richardson and Britt.
Alas, the Seahawks didn’t think they needed to use their draft capital on the offensive line, and now they are stuck with an inexperienced group that includes an underachieving former first-round left tackle, an overdrafted tackle-turned-guard, a center scooped off waivers, a converted defensive lineman and an undrafted right tackle.
On top of that, the unit is entirely unsettled beyond this season — Okung and Sweezy will be free agents and the other players are all subject to being replaced.
As the Steelers come to town, it’s a reminder that the Seahawks could have solved their O-line problems by now, starting with DeCastro in 2012.