The story of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2012 draft class can be made into a movie.
There’s David DeCastro’s comeback from a preseason knee injury, and the much longer odds Sean Spence faces returning from his knee injury.
There are the stories of redemption.
Mike Adams grew up a Steelers fan and had to beg the organization to put him back on their draft board after he lied about a positive marijuana test.
Bad boy Alameda Ta’amu has yet to redeem himself.
Chris Rainey didn’t get the chance.
There’s the underdog tales of seventh-rounders Kelvin Beachum and David Paulson not only making the team, but also contributing.
The script is still being written. Our assessment of the round-by-round value of this draft is based only on the rookie years of these players.
For an explanation of our grading system, click here.
David DeCastro, OG: This pick typifies the Steelers’ philosophy of drafting the best player available. Most mock drafts had DeCastro going in the top 15. When he fell to the Steelers at No. 24, the Steelers scooped him up despite the needs on their aging defense. DeCastro tore his MCL in the preseason, but fought his way back and played in the final four games. DeCastro started at right guard in the last two games that mattered, at Dallas and home against Cincinnati. He was adequate against the Cowboys, according to Pro Football Focus, but Geno Atkins beat him for two sacks and three quarterback hurries the following week, according to Rotoworld. With a quarter-season of on-the-job training under his belt, DeCastro is slated to start at right guard in 2013, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Value: 3 Differential: Minus-2
Mike Adams, OT: After the Steelers chose DeCastro, offensive line became the serendipitous theme of this draft when Adams was still available in the second round. Adams played 10 games at right tackle for the Steelers, starting six of them. He did well as a run blocker in the middle of the season. The only three 100-yard games by Steelers running backs came in three consecutive weeks with Adams at right tackle. His rookie season was cut short by a high-ankle sprain in Week 12 at Cleveland, but the Steelers plan to start him at right tackle next season, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Value: 3 Differential: Minus-1
Sean Spence, ILB: Spence looked Polamalu-like with his ability to dart all over the field on defense, but his career is in doubt after a gruesome knee injury in the preseason. According to Pro Football Talk, Spence suffered a torn ACL, a torn LCL and a dislocated kneecap. There also was nerve damage, according to Rotoworld. The Steelers don’t know if Spence will play again, which is why they needed to re-sign Larry Foote. Value: 7 Differential: Minus-4
Alameda Ta’amu, NT: The Steelers traded up in the fourth round, giving up their sixth-round pick, to draft their supposed nose tackle of the future. As much of a disappointment as Ta’amu has been so far on the field, he’s been a bigger disappointment off the field. Ta’amu was arrested in October after police said he led them on a chase while driving drunk. Police said he crashed into several parked cars and injured at least two people. According to WPXI-TV, Ta’amu’s lawyer is working on a plea deal. Ta’amu didn’t dress for a game in his rookie season. The Steelers expect to lose Casey Hampton in free agency, but Steve McLendon is the projected starter at nose tackle. Ta’amu has a long way to go to compete for a starting job. Value: 7 Differential: Minus-3
Chris Rainey, RB: With this pick, the Steelers took a chance on a guy with a troubled past. It didn’t work out quite as well as it did with Adams. Rainey pled guilty to misdemeanor stalking while at the University of Florida, but the Steelers drafted him and adopted a zero tolerance policy. When Rainey was arrested in January for simple battery stemming from a fight with his girlfriend, the Steelers promptly cut him, according to NFL.com. The 5’9”, 180-pound Rainey scored two touchdowns as a third-down back and averaged 26.5 yards on 39 kickoff returns, but he wasn’t productive enough for the Steelers to look past his latest transgression. Rainey wasn’t drafted early enough to be considered a classic bust. But for a fifth-round draft pick he came with a lot of fanfare, and since he made a slight contribution he’s better than a “7.” So he gets the big, fat “6” that is slapped on busts in our series. Value: 6 Differential: Minus-1
Toney Clemons, WR: Clemons did not make the Steelers roster, but appeared in four games with the Jacksonville Jaguars and caught three passes. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-1
David Paulson, TE: Paulson caught seven passes in his rookie year, but might see more action in 2013 if Heath Miller isn’t ready to go in Week 1. Value: 4 Differential: Plus-3
Terrence Frederick, CB: Frederick didn’t make the Steelers roster but played in one game for the New York Giants Giants. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-1
Kelvin Beachum, OL: Beachum started the last five games at right tackle in 2012 because of injuries. The Steelers had planned to start him at left guard in 2013, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, until they re-signed Ramon Foster. Beachum’s versatility will give him plenty of opportunities to get on the field. Value: 3 Differential: Plus-4
Overall Differential: Minus-6
Overall Value Grade: B
Conclusion: So far, the seventh round has been the saving grace of this class in terms of round-by-round value. To be fair, injuries have hurt the value in the first three rounds. If DeCastro and Adams become long-term starters and Beachum at least becomes a versatile backup (think Trai Essex, but more talented), this could be the Steelers’ best offensive line draft since they took Alan Faneca in 1998.