A football lays on the field. (Photo courtesy of Metro Creative Graphics)

PITTSBURGH  — The Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday released six-time Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro in a surprise move.

The 31-year-old DeCastro attended the team's mandatory minicamp last week but did not participate in full-team drills.

DeCastro, the team's first-round pick in the 2012 draft, spent nine years with the Steelers. He was named All-Pro following the 2015 and 2017 seasons while playing on one of the most dominant offensive lines in the league. DeCastro was entering the final season of a five-year $50-million contract he signed in 2017.

The decision does free up some salary-cap space for the Steelers to find a replacement, but DeCastro's solid play on the field and presence in the locker room deals a significant blow to what is now a very young offensive line group.

"David was without a doubt one of the premier offensive linemen during his time with us,” general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “He helped us win a lot of football games, but it was David’s consistency, reliability and professionalism that stood out more than anything else.”

DeCastro expressed frustration last December with the disjointed 2020 season. The Steelers won the AFC North while playing most of their home games in an empty Heinz Field because of COVID-19 protocols.

“You're like, 'What are we doing out here?'” DeCastro said at the time. “I don't like to make excuses because we're professionals and stuff but we're still human. We have emotions and not having fans there, it's just tough.”

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