In 2019, the sudden implosion of Ben Roethlisberger‘s elbow got the Steelers and coach Mike Tomlin in hot water for not disclosing that Roethlisberger had an elbow injury. In 2021, the Steelers could be facing another injury-reporting problem.
Guard David DeCastro, released this week by the team, admits that he had bone spurs in his ankle throughout the 2020 season. The injury reports say otherwise.
“I have to get surgery on my ankle a third time,” DeCastro said Thursday. “I tried to fix it last year but the bone spurs kept coming back. It nagged me pretty bad all last year.”
According to the injury reports, DeCastro missed three games last year, two for a knee injury and one due to an abdominal problem. He never appeared on the injury report with an ankle issue.
And it definitely was an issue. Consider his Friday comments to Jim Colony of 93.7 The Fan: “Last year it bothered me. Not only is it painful but it’s hard to play on when you feel like you’re playing half-legged.”
The team’s decision to release DeCastro with a non-football injury designation seemed odd when it happened, given that it appeared that DeCastro’s lingering ankle issues trace directly to football. The team’s effort to characterize the injury as something that happened between the end of the 2020 season and Thursday makes sense, however, to the extent that the Steelers don’t want to get in trouble again with the league office over the question of hiding injuries.
Most if not all teams take liberties with their injury reports. Some are more aggressive than others. And the league rarely takes action, presumably because the league prefers not to highlight the fact that corruption and cheating run rampant throughout the NFL.
It’s an issue that the league needs to deal with sooner than later, however. As legalized gambling continues to spread, eventually a politician and/or a prosecutor will start poking around. These chronic issues with injury-reporting irregularities — hiding in plain sight — could be the impetus for a scandal that the league will wish it had taken meaningful action to avoid.