Bright spots on the O-line and a new book by one of the game's best O-line coaches

By Ray Fittipaldo 4 years ago

David DeCastro is quietly having a nice sophomore season after a shaky rookie year that was hampered by a knee injury. But did the Steelers take the best guard available in the spring of 2012? The Bengals selected Kevin Zeitler out of Wisconsin three spots after DeCastro with the 27th pick, and Zeitler is fifth-best guard in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus and owns the second-best run blocking grade in the league. DeCastro ranks as the 15th-best guard in the league. Kraig Urbik, a former third-round pick by the Steelers, is 16th. The Steelers gave up on him after one season before cutting him and keeping Ramon Foster, an undrafted free agent. Foster is the 23rd-ranked guard.

*Remember those who wanted the Steelers to draft Alabama linebacker Donta Hightower instead of DeCastro? Well, he’s not having a great second season. He’s starting for the Patriots, but this is what PFF had to say about his performance: “Still looks a little out of place in coverage where 15 of 19 balls thrown his way have been complete. Four missed tackles isn’t helping his cause either but he does look more comfortable in run defense.”

*We all know where Mike Adams ranked by PFF before he was demoted. He was 69th out of 72 tackles in the league. Want to know why Atlanta is 1-3? Their two starting tackles – Lamar Holmes and Sam Baker – are below Adams. Poor Matt Ryan.

*After a rough opener against Tennessee, Marcus Gilbert has settled in at right tackle and is in the middle of the pack at 32nd.

*Fernando Velasco is the 16th-ranked center.

*I thought I’d share with the readers a new book from former Steelers assistant coach Dan Radakovich. It’s titled “Bad Rad Football Nomad”

There is a foreword by Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham and is co-authored by Lou Prato. The book is a collection of short vignettes about his experiences coaching football for 50 years in college and the professional ranks.

Radakovich had the unique experience of working for Joe Paterno and Chuck Noll. He also has the distinction of coaching two positions for the Steelers in the early years of their dynasty. He coached the Steel Curtain front four in the early 1970s before becoming Noll’s offensive line coach in the middle of the decade.

Nomad is a good way to describe Radakovich, who left the Steelers to become an assistant coach with the 49ers only to find out that working for Ed DeBartolo, Jr. was less than satisfying. He refers to DeBartolo, Jr. as an absentee owner throughout the book and tells of his per diem on road trips was $8. He also tells the story of how he quit before a game because head coach Pete McCully would not allow him to coach from the sidelines. Later that season, after McCully was fired, Radakovich was rehired.

Other entertaining stories include his decision to leave the Denver Broncos in 1983, with a budding superstar quarterback on the rise, for Minnesota because Vikings coach Les Steckel took his assistant coaches on vacation with him to Jamaica. Steckel was fired after one season and Radakovich was looking for another job. And the time he tried to convince Noll to trade for Joe Theismann to back up Terry Bradshaw. Noll was OK with it until he found out Theismann made twice as much as Bradshaw.

For football fans, it’s a good read from one of the game’s great characters.