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Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Draft is Hurting Them in 2013

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen enough of Mike Adams for now.

That doesn’t say much for their player evaluation leading up to the 2012 NFL draft.

Amid the desperation caused by their 0-4 start, the Steelers took the desperate measure of trading a conditional draft pick to the Arizona Cardinals for offensive tackle Levi Brown, who isn’t much better than Adams.

Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 15 times this season with Adams protecting his blind side at left tackle. That puts him on pace to be sacked 60 times. He’s never been sacked more than 50 times in a season.

Adams is responsible for four of those 15 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, as well as six quarterback hits and 13 quarterback hurries.

Pro Football Focus ranks Adams 69th out of 72 qualifying NFL offensive tackles. Brown is ranked 60th.

Brown, the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft, might not replace Adams at left tackle right away. Kelvin Beachum could start there until Brown gets up to speed on the Steelers’ playbook.

Whatever happens, Adams will be watching from the bench, and that’s an indictment on the Steelers’ 2012 draft.

The letter grades pundits hand out hours after a draft is completed are like grading students for orientation, before they set foot in any classroom.

That said, there’s a lot more data for assessing the 2012 draft than there was 17 months ago. Adams’ demotion, as well as events that have transpired since the end of last season, warrant a spot inspection of that draft.

Before taking Adams in the second round, 56th overall, the Steelers chose guard David DeCastro in the first round.

DeCastro played in just four games last year because of a preseason knee injury. So far in 2013, he is ranked No. 15 among NFL guards, according to Pro Football Focus via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

That would indicate that DeCastro is coming along fine. First-round drafting never has been a problem for the Steelers. They haven’t had a first-round bust since Kevin Colbert joined the organization in 2000. The second and third day of the draft has been the problem.

Inside linebacker Sean Spence, the Steelers’ third-round pick, suffered a horrific knee injury in the 2012 preseason and is unlikely to play again. That’s just bad luck. The Steelers can’t be faulted for that.

The Steelers can be faulted for what they did in the fourth and fifth rounds.

They moved up in the fourth round, trading their sixth-round pick, to take nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu. In the fifth round they drafted running back Chris Rainey and all the red flags that came with his character concerns.

Character wasn’t as much of an issue with Ta’amu, nonetheless both he and Rainey got into off-the-field trouble, and neither was good enough for the Steelers to put up with it. Rainey was released in January and Ta’amu was released in training camp after not dressing in his rookie year. That left the Steelers with nothing to show for their fourth- and fifth-round efforts.

The Steelers had four seventh-round picks. Wide receiver Toney Clemons and cornerback Terrence Frederick never played a down for the Steelers. At least three tight ends on the team, counting healthy and unhealthy bodies, are better than David Paulson. While it’s nice that Kelvin Beachum can substitute at any position on the offensive line, the suspicion creeps in that he’s not good enough to start at any one spot.

The current yield, then, from the Steelers’ 2012 draft is an up-and-coming guard and a versatile backup on the offensive line.

That’s not enough, especially from a nine-player class.

The shortcomings of the Steelers’ 2012 selections have directly contributed to their 0-4 start in 2013.

It’s too early to stamp the word “Bust” on Adams’ forehead, but his learning curve has led to sacks and turnovers that have stalled the Steelers’ offense.

Not only did Paulson fail to help the Steelers much during Heath Miller’s absence, especially from a blocking standpoint, but he hurt them with his fumble in the red zone at Cincinnati. The Steelers were poised to go up 10-0 before that momentum-killing giveaway, and they lost 20-10.

The Steelers’ 2013 draft shows more promise than the 2012 draft and already is developing quicker. Jarvis Jones, Le’Veon Bell and Vince Williams are starters even though they still have a lot to learn. Markus Wheaton caught the first three passes of his career in Week 4. Shamarko Thomas has been a solid special teams player and is getting some on-the-job training as a defensive back.

If some or all of those players progress next season, the 2014 Steelers will get a nice lift from their 2013 draft.

The 2012 draft is having the opposite effect this season.

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1 comment

  1. charles maftin

    Enjoy your matter of fact writing. Colbert made a lot of gambles last year, Rainey and Adams were two of them. This year, he did not do that and the draft production that a team needs in the salary cap parity that the NFL employs has a very good chance. Colbert needs help in evaluating linemen. Those are the choices where there has been a glaring lack of production.

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