ESPN Insider Mel Kiper re-graded the 2012 NFL Draft recently, based on what he saw from each team's rookie class last year.
It likely won't come as much of a shock to Steelers fans Kiper dropped his original B grade to a C, a full letter drop, one of the largest in the NFL.
Much of this is credited to the fact the Steelers' top two picks, OG David DeCastro and OT Mike Adams, played a combined nine of 32 games this season, and third round pick Sean Spence missed the entire year.
That being said, based on the criteria of the evaluation, and the releases of fourth and fifth round picks, Alameda Ta'amu and Chris Rainey, were released, it seems like it could have been lower.
At the same time, the Steelers got six starts from seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum, and loads of second tight end and special teams production from seventh round pick David Paulson.
One might say the class took one step back and not only is capable, but is borderline expected, to take three steps forward next year.
DeCastro and Adams will start next season, and depending on his rehabilitation from a knee injury suffered in the preseason, Spence could compete for a starting linebacker spot next season as well. If Ta'amu can win back the respect of his coaches and be re-signed for the 2013 season (he ended the year on the team's practice squad), he still could pan out, considering the departure of 13-year veteran Casey Hampton and relative lack of depth at the nose tackle position.
Paulson is currently at the top of the Steelers' depth chart at tight end considering the injury suffered by Pro Bowl TE Heath Miller at the end of the 2012 season, and Beachum could end up moving to guard in the possible event oft-injured LG Willie Colon is released.
The key to this draft has always been DeCastro and Adams, and the athleticism the pair bring to the right side of the line make this one of the most dynamic offensive fronts in the NFL.
We mentioned the possibility of the team moving its running philosophy to a zone approach, given the outstanding athleticism they have, and that still very well could happen.
The 2012 draft would be the tip of that spear, and that C could turn into an A very quickly.