Steelers' top pick DeCastro leaves with knee injury
David DeCastro is helped off the field after injuring his right knee against Buffalo in the first quarter Saturday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It took an 11-play, 98-yard touchdown drive near the end of the first half to snap some life into the Steelers offense.
But, it took just six plays to sap a good measure of hope and promise from the offensive line.
That's when guard David DeCastro, the team's No. 1 draft choice, injured his right knee and had to be carted from the field Saturday against the Buffalo Bills.
The Steelers did not immediately reveal the nature of DeCastro's injury or how long the 6-foot-5, 316-pound guard might be out. But it is never a good sign when a player does not walk off the field after a knee injury.
DeCastro was replaced by Ramon Foster, who began training camp as the starter at right guard.
It has not been a good preseason for the top two draft choices because tackle Mike Adams sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the preseason opener in Philadelphia.
Like DeCastro, Adams was injured on the second series in that game.
Adams, though, never missed a game, but he has been practicing and playing with the second-team offensive line.
DeCastro wasn't the only casualty.
Defensive end Brett Keisel injured his left ankle in the first quarter and did not return.
He was replaced by DE Cameron Heyward, last year's No. 1 pick who had extensive playing time against the Bills.
Antonio Brown spent the latter half of the 2011 season playing split end, or X receiver -- the position usually manned by Mike Wallace. The switch was beneficial for Brown because he had more than 800 of his 1,108 receiving yards in the final 10 games.
Brown, though, is back at his old receiver position, and Emmanuel Sanders is playing split end while Wallace has been a training-camp holdout.
But that hasn't bothered Brown, who had two touchdown catches again Saturday night -- 6 yards from Ben Roethlisberger and 39 yards from Byron Leftwich -- to give him three in the past two games.
Wallace is expected to return this week, according to several of his teammates, and will be the split end -- when he manages to work his way back into the lineup.
Despite the injuries at outside linebacker, the Steelers want to leave Lawrence Timmons on the inside because they believe he can be more effective if he doesn't have to switch positions.
Timmons will need to make more big plays like the one he made in the second quarter when his hit on running back C.J. Spiller forced a fumble that Ziggy Hood recovered at the Bills 18, leading to a touchdown.
With the departure of James Farrior, Timmons needs to be one of the keys to the defense.
"I'm older now so a lot of players look up to me," said Timmons, 26.
"I'm not as much a vocal leader, but I do like to lead by example. I always try to be a high-energy guy, always try to be active in the game so the other players can see."
Running back Jonathan Dwyer made two big plays that helped contribute to touchdowns on back-to-back series.
At the of the first half, he had a 33-yard catch along the sideline on third-and-9 from the 3 that ignited an 11-play, 98-yard scoring drive.
And, one play after Troy Polamalu's interception to start the second half, Dwyer picked up a blitzing defender that allowed Leftwich to find Brown for a 39-yard touchdown.
It was not a good start for the special teams after the surprising firing of their coach, Al Everest.
The Bills had returns of 18 and 10 yards on the first two punts and replay overturned what appeared to be a downed punt at the Bills 1 when it was determined cornerback Curtis Brown was standing on the goal line when he hit the ball back to Ryan Mundy.
The lone exception was rookie punter Drew Butler, who had punts of 53 and 61 yards in the first quarter.
Butler has been getting all the work while Jeremy Kapinos recovers from back surgery.
Everest was fired Friday in a surprising move after serving as special teams coordinator since 2010.
His dismissal did not appear to be related to on-field performance by the coverage or return units.
Buffalo spent $100 million to sign former Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams in free agency and, on paper, it looks as if he's doing what the Bills had hoped.
Williams was credited with two sacks on Roethlisberger and another tackle for no gain on Dwyer in the first half.
But, on each of the sacks, Roethlisberger deliberately went down without being touched. Williams was the closest player in the area and touched him down each time.
Even on the play in which Dwyer was stopped, Williams didn't make the play as much as Dwyer ran into his own guard and fell backward.
"We just play off one another and somebody is going to get there," Williams said. "I got [the sacks] but all credit goes to the guys who are playing next to me."
First Published August 26, 2012 12:01 am