Picking 24th back in April's 2012 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers made a pick that team management felt could have been made while wearing a mask.

Stanford's right guard road-grater David DeCastro, he of the 39 Pac-12 starts and 96.88 senior year blocking consistency mark, dropped to Pittsburgh in the draft's first round and had Steelers fans dreaming of a resurgent offensive line.

Those dreams then appeared to end in the squad's third preseason game in Buffalo when DeCastro went down with an injured knee (torn MCL, dislocated knee cap, and patellar tendon damage) as teammate Marcus Gilbert landed on his right leg.

Fortunately for the Steelers, it was the first year the league offered a 'designated for return tag', a new injured reserve rule that allowed a player be eligible for the Active List after spending eight weeks Reserve/Injured.

After 16 weeks of not playing, David DeCastro is ready to make his Steelers debut this Sunday at right guard against the Dallas Cowboys.

"It's been a great story other than the negative of him getting hurt," Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said on Thursday. "The fact that the new rule was made that kept him alive, it gave him something to work for, a goal. We didn't know for sure whether he'd be able to make it back or not but it's a testament to him and the trainers, the hard work that he put him for a big chunk of the season to put him in a position to even get back on the field is terrific. Now that he's out here I think every week he's done a good job, gotten more and more comfortable with his feet under him. We got to have pads on yesterday [at practice] which was good, and he's passed every test."

DeCastro's ultra serious personality became a punch-line among his Steelers teammates early in the season. In August, center Maurkice Pouncey joked that the team called DeCastro "Mr. Personality."

Pouncey laughed when asked if DeCastro had improved his social skills.

"He done opened up a lot now," Pouncey said. "He jokes around a little bit. He came in a serious dude trying to get the offense down. We finally found his personality. Just time payed off a little bit for him, being around the guys, getting acclimated to everybody and knowing everybody else's personality."

That's not to suggest that DeCastro is a social butterfly.

"He doesn't go on and on now," Pouncey chuckled. "He might give you five quick words and he's done."

Running back Issac Redman agreed that DeCastro's verbal skills were a work in progress.

"I still haven't heard too much from him," Redman said. "We actually were talking and laughing at practice today, me, him, and Ramon [Foster]. That was pretty much the most I've talked to him all year. I'm thinking he's starting to get more comfortable around the guys. The longer you're around certain people the closer you get."

The question remains, how good can DeCastro be in his first start on the road in Dallas?

"We'll see," Redman said. "He had to overcome it physically but you also have to overcome a knee injury mentally. In your head, having that confidence to do certain things. Once the game goes we'll really be able to see if he's ready. Since I've been [in Pittsburgh] I haven't seen a guy come from a knee injury and then come back and play in a year. I take my hat off to that guy that he's able to work hard, get back, and be able to come help us play some games."

DeCastro will be making his debut to the left of a fellow rookie who will be making his 3rd NFL start, 7th round draft pick (and 5 away from being 'Mr. Irrelevant') and the team's third right tackle on the season in Kelvin Beachum.

"Me and David are real cool, we came in as rookies together," Beachum said. "We've grown together. It'll be nice playing alongside him. We've got a great challenge in front of us and I think both of us are ready to roll."

"That's awesome, man, they get an opportunity to go showcase their skills, show everybody why the coaches brought them here," Pouncey said. "I think they're going to embrace that opportunity and run with it."

"The good thing is they came in together, those guys that come in the same class tend to have good rapport right out of the gate," said Haley. "They're going to have to count on Pouncey, but they're both smart guys and 'Beach' has been in there for two-and-a-half weeks. I know they'll be communicating and ready to go mentally and physically."

"We were all excited about Kelvin from the start," Haley continued. "We were excited when we drafted him we were able to get him where we did. You only have so many picks and you've got a long list of guys that you'd love to have on the team. He obviously was one of them. I can remember clearly on draft day that there was some fist pumping and high five-ing because we were able to get another guy that we wanted. He hasn't disappointed. He's a hard working, nose-to-the-grindstone type of kid that you don't hear much out of. When he got his opportunity to play he's done a commendable job. He needs to get better like everyone else but for a young guy being thrown to the wolves he's done a good job. He'll be facing the ultimate test this week. These guys rushing outside in Dallas are the real deal."

And between the Beachum-DeCastro tandem, despite the personality progress, it may still be up to Beachum to do the talking.

"If I look over and [DeCastro's] doing that," laughed Pouncey, "I'll really know he's doing great with communication so I'll be happy."

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