Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
When the Steelers drafted running back Chris Rainey in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, there was great excitement about what the Florida speedster could accomplish right out the gate. Unfortunately, much like the rest of Pittsburgh's 2012 draft class, Rainey was mostly underwhelming in 2012.
Steelers fans always wanted to know what Chris Rainey could do out in space. Now, they'll get their chance, because Rainey, the team's fifth round pick in the 2012 draft, was released shortly after it was announced that the rookie running back was arrested on Thursday for a domestic dispute in his home-state of Florida after a fight with his girlfriend over a cell phone.
Rainey will have all the space in the world to find out if risking his entire future over a cell phone was worth it (didn't he get a decent enough signing bonus?)
Other than guard David DeCastro, Pittsburgh's first round pick, fans were probably the most excited about Rainey because of his speed and quickness--the speed rivaled that of Mike Wallace--and there were those who considered him one of the steals of the draft.
Unfortunately, the rookie never quite lived up to the hype, and maybe there was a reason why the undersized back lasted until the fifth round.
Rainey never seemed to quite fit in with the Steelers offense. He was too small to be an every down back, of course--he gained 102 yards on 26 carries--and he didn't make much of an impact as a pass-catcher out of he backfield, with only 60 yards on 14 receptions and three fumbles (one lost).
Many thought his real calling was that of a kickoff returner, and while he certainly was respectable in that regard, he still didn't make the impact many hoped he would.
Rainey's arrest and release was just the latest blow to a somewhat disappointing 2012 draft class. DeCastro missed most of the season after sustaining a significant knee injury in the preseason, and the team's second round pick, right tackle Mike Adams, never played again after suffering a severe high ankle sprain in the loss to the Browns in Week 12.
While the future still looks pretty bright for the first two picks, one has to wonder about the rest of the 2012 class.
Linebacker Sean Spence, the team's third round pick, was turning a lot of heads in training camp last summer and was expected to contribute in his rookie campaign. Unfortunately, he sustained a pretty significant knee injury in the final preseason game, tearing his ACL and LCL and dislocating his knee cap. One has to wonder how soon (if ever) the rookie will return to the lineup, and if he'll ever be quite the same again.
As for the team's fourth round pick, nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu, he's currently facing serious charges after being arrested on October 14th, for driving while intoxicated and evading police. After initially being waived, he was re-signed and is still on Pittsburgh's roster. However, after what happened with Rainey on Thursday, could public opinion cause the front office to part ways with the 348 pound rookie for good?
In addition to Rainey, the Steelers drafted two other players in the fifth round--wide receiver Toney Clemons out of Colorado and tight end David Paulson out of Oregon. Clemons was waived and is currently with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Paulson made the team as Heath Miller's backup, and caught seven passes for 51 yards and no touchdowns.
OT Kelvin Beachum, the other seventh round pick out of SMU, was sometimes impressive while filling in for Adams, but just like with Rainey, there was probably a reason he lasted to the seventh round, so it's hard to imagine him being much more than a utility lineman.
When Adams was named the team's rookie of the year in 2012, it almost seemed like he won the award by default--someone HAD to win it.
The life-blood of any professional football team is what it does in the draft, and it never hurts to have a rookie or two come in and make an impact right out of the gate. Other than center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers haven't had many such rookies in recent years and have missed the playoffs two times since winning Super Bowl XLIII.
While the jury is still out on the 2012 class (in more ways than one), it was certainly a disappointing first semester.
Let's hope there's a better sophomore season for the remaining members--the Steelers playoff future partially depends on it.