I have to admit that watching Stanford offensive lineman David DeCastro fall during the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft reminded me of my favorite Christmas movie, ‘A Christmas Story.’ Much like young Ralphie, I really never dreamed that what I actually wanted would truly come my way but as in the case of the Red Rider BB Gun, DeCastro fell my way and in turn started the Pittsburgh Steelers on the way to potentially one of their finest drafts in many, many seasons.
There’s a good chance you’ve already read so much post-draft analysis that your friends are starting to refer to you as ‘Kiper.’ Let me take you beyond that and examine just why this draft has so much potential for the Steelers.
In DeCastro, you pretty much see what you get. He will start from day one and more than likely at left guard, but that’s to be determined. His addition immediately upgraded a very average offensive line. He is surly, aggressive and smart and the type of guy who is durable and could anchor that line for the next 10 years.
I admit when Mike Adams, the tackle from Ohio State, started dropping faster than a Cleveland fan’s Super Bowl hopes, I had a feeling we were going with him. An extremely talented guy who was targeted in the first round, Adams was dropping because of the infamous ‘Tattoo Scandal’ and positive tests for marijuana at the NFL Combine in February. Somehow I just knew with our need for more offensive tackle help, we would take him and we did.
I was less than happy about this at first but then General Manager Kevin Colbert addressed the pick and discussed how Adams approached the Steelers and only the Steelers about how he had and would continue to turn his life around. Young people make mistakes, I realize this as we all do, but I wasn’t sure about Adams until I heard about his actions towards redemption. While this could of course still blow up in the face of the Steelers, it could also end up being one of the great steals of the draft much in the same way Randy Moss and Warren Sapp fell with similar off-field issues.
The third round pick in some of eyes was the Steelers’ only reach, but I loved the selection of Miami,FL linebacker Sean Spence and here’s why; With each passing year the Steelers spend more and more time in the nickel package as the league continues to be ‘pass-happy.’ Linebackers can no longer afford to be bruising, run-stoppers in the middle as they must also be able to cover athletic tight ends and speedy running backs. Spence can do this and he can also tackle with excellent skill. When you’re locked up on a guy one-on-one you have to make the tackle for allowing him past you means more yards and more moving the chains. I really like this pick and to me, it was obvious why they went with Spence who may be smallish, but he fills a very important need.
I know some fans were thinking wide receiver in the fourth round, but again the Steelers absolutely nailed the selection when they moved up to get Alameda Ta’amu, a gigantic nose tackle from Washington who can immediately add depth to the nose tackle position. He will not be a three-down guy but he should be able to provide exactly what defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau is looking for at that position.
Another great selection was that of Florida speedster Chris Rainey in the fifth round. Rainey will immediately challenge last year’s seventh round pick Baron Batch for what is likely a third down running back position. More than that however, Rainey could also be used in the slot at receiver and can also returns punts and kicks. This was another great selection which could have a huge benefit should Rainey produce.
With the sixth round pick traded to Washington in order to move up and get Ta’amu, the Steelers picked up wide receiver Toney Clemons from Colorado, tight end David Paulson of Oregon, Texas A&M cornerback Terrence Frederick and SMU offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum.
When you draft in the late rounds you are hoping to find the next Tom Brady or Antonio Brown who were both drafted in the sixth rounds. You are also hoping to add depth and much-needed special teams help as well which all four of these players could do. Despite the potential logjam at tight end, I like the Paulson selection. He was kind of lost in the shuffle at Oregon with all of the speedsters that surrendered him, but he was a very reliable blocker and pass catcher.
If you look back at the Steelers’ draft grades over the past 20 years by certain draft experts you’ll find that they range in the neighborhood from ‘C’ to ‘B+’ in the days following the draft. In the days following this 2012 draft, I can tell you I am once again seeing Ralphie from ‘A Christmas Story’ as he fantasized about his grade for his theme paper. Young Ralphie was paraded around the room on his classmates’ shoulders as the teacher wrote ‘A++++++++’ across the board. I don’t expect the Steelers real-life grade to plummet to a ‘C+’ like Ralphie’s did as only time will tell. One way or another, this draft right now is an ‘A+’ in my book.