LATROBE, Pa. - Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman David DeCastro hears the talk about his potential. He knows how good his teammates and coaches think he can be.
"You (hear the expectations)," DeCastro said. "And you don't completely ignore them, but at the same time, it's such a hard game that if you start focusing on other things without playing football, you won't be able to get the job done."
DeCastro enjoye a breakout second season, starting 15 of 16 games at right guard and helping the Steelers average more than 28 points during a resurgent second half that nearly got them into the playoffs. It was the steady season the Steelers envisioned when they made DeCastro the No. 24 overall pick out of Stanford in 2012.
Offensive line coach Mike Munchak, in his first year with Pittsburgh, was the head coach with the Tennessee Titans when the Steelers drafted DeCastro.
"I liked him when he came out of the draft," said Munchak, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman. "I thought he was a good pick for the Steelers went he came here, so I'm glad that I get a chance to work with someone like him."
DeCastro's rookie year looked full of promise before things derailed in the team's third preseason game. He suffered a torn medial collateral ligament, dislocated kneecap and partially torn patellar tendon in his right knee.
Modified injured reserve rules helped DeCastro salvage his rookie season, making three starts in four games, but he acknowledges it was still tough. The bounce-back second year provided DeCastro with a much-needed confidence boost entering his third season.
"It was a rocky start, but I think, just like anything in life, the second year, third year, you get more and more comfortable," DeCastro said. "As the year went on, I thought I played better and got more comfortable."
There are individual goals, but DeCastro placed those on the backburner, understanding his personal success is tied to the team.
"Personally, I think I can be a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but obviously that comes behind the team goals," DeCastro said. "For me to get there, the best way is to have a good offensive line and a good team."
Maurkice Pouncey, a three-time All-Pro center, believes DeCastro can become an elite lineman in the league.
"He's definitely Pro Bowl caliber and All-Pro caliber," Pouncey said. "I think everybody knows the potential he has and the year he had last year was excellent. He's putting in the work and it's definitely going to show."
The physical tools have always been there. The pedigree, too, after 39 starts at Stanford. DeCastro's work ethic and straightforward approach may be paramount.
"I like the way he plays, I like his demeanor to the game," Munchak said. "He's very consistent and he wants to get better. The ability is there, he wants it, he is improving and the opportunity is there for him."
DeCastro intends to seize it.
"I feel very confident, very comfortable and I look forward to going out there and getting started," he said.
NOTES: Steelers' first-round pick LB Ryan Shazier left practice with an apparent right leg injury, limping off the field after a collision with RB Le'Veon Bell. Head coach Mike Tomlin dismissed the injury, classifying it as "a little boo-boo." The Steelers worked through a 20-minute rain shower during Sunday's practice. They have one more practice before an off day on Tuesday.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.