- Associated Press - Friday, September 9, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - David DeCastro was fully prepared to enter the final year of his contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers with his future uncertain. The ever pragmatic All-Pro guard even had a phone number handy just in case he needed to take out an insurance policy if he and the team couldn’t agree to a long-term extension.

The Steelers gave him tens of millions of reasons not to make that call. The new six-year, $58 million deal DeCastro agreed to on Thursday makes him one of the league’s highest paid linemen.

“You can think about it all you want, but you can’t comprehend that, it’s life changing,” DeCastro said.

And the latest investment by the Steelers to make sure quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and one of the league’s best offenses keeps on rolling. With DeCastro in the fold the Steelers have all but one of their offensive line starters locked up through at least the next three seasons. Guard Ramon Foster is signed through 2018 with right tackle Marcus Gilbert and center Maurkice Pouncey set through 2019.

Pouncey joked in the locker room on Friday that DeCastro owed him a Bentley while Gilbert anticipates DeCastro picking up the check in the near future. That’s fine by DeCastro (well, maybe not the Bentley part), who can now place his focus strictly on the fun part of his job instead of the business side.

“I love the game of football,” he said. “The money is a great sign of respect but I just have to continue doing what I’m doing. I know how to do it. It’s gotten me this far.”

Even if his career didn’t exactly get off to a smooth start. The Steelers made the former Stanford All-American the 24th overall pick in the 2012 draft, won over by DeCastro’s size, aggressiveness and attention to detail. The optimism dimmed almost immediately when DeCastro injured two ligaments in his right knee during the 2012 preseason. It was the first time in his life an injury had forced him to stand and watch. The timing for a rookie trying to make the leap from college to the pros could not have been worse.

“There’s definitely a learning curve in the NFL,” DeCastro said. “My rookie year was tough. I’d never been injured before. But you put your head down, you adapt and you learn.”

Fast forward to 2016 and DeCastro is coming off a breakthrough year in which he earned his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods. He’s missed just one game since the start of 2013 to help provide continuity to a line that’s saw significant injuries to Pouncey and former left tackle Kelvin Beachum in 2015 alone.

“It’s hard,” DeCastro said. “We carry goals, 30 points a game. Everyone has those quantitative goals. At the end of the day you put that effort out there and do everything you can. There’s a reason why we’re here. We just put everything out there and do everything you can. Hopefully stay healthy and we should be fine.”

NOTES: WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder) did not practice for a second straight day. … Gilbert (elbow), DE Cam Heyward (ankle) and DT Javon Hargrave (quadriceps) all practiced and are expected to play against the Redskins.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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