We continue our analysis of the Pittsburgh Steelers' draft classes throughout the Mike Tomlin era, and today we analyze the class of 2012. The team had 9 draft picks in 2012, and 4 of those selections were in the 7th round. The Steelers continued to look to the offensive line to help protect star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but as there were some bright spots in 2012, there were many disappointments as well.
2012 Steelers Draft Class:
1st Round: G, David DeCastro
2nd Round: OT, Mike Adams
3rd Round: ILB, Sean Spence
4th Round: NT, Alameda Ta'amu
5th Round: RB, Chris Rainey
7th Round: WR, Toney Clemons
7th Round: TE, David Paulson
7th Round: DB, Terrence Frederick
7th Round: OL, Kelvin Beachum
When David DeCastro fell to the Steelers at the No. 24 pick of the 2012 Draft, it was thought he was one of the steals of the first round. DeCastro, although suffering a knee injury his rookie season in the preseason, has lived up to the billing and is developing into one of the premier guards in the NFL. 2014 was DeCastro's best season and showed his athleticism on the classic pulling plays as he and Heath Miller paved the way for Le'Veon Bell to gash defenses throughout the year. The Steelers have had some busts in the first round, but DeCastro certainly isn't one of them.
The second round was a very controversial selection as the Steelers took offensive tackle Mike Adams. Adams, similar to several current NFL prospects, tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine and fell to the second round. It wasn't until begging the Steelers to put him back on their big board did the Steelers consider taking Adams, and did so with their second round pick. Adams has had a troubled career in the NFL. After a difficult rookie season seeing time at left tackle, Adams was stabbed in the offseason and missed key offseason workouts. 2013 wasn't kind to Adams as he was repeatedly beaten badly as the team stumbled out of the gates to an 0-4 start. 2014 was an improvement for Adams, who has moved to right tackle, as he filled in for injured Marcus Gilbert on several occasions and held his own in that capacity. Although Adams hasn't turned into the left tackle they expected, he has contributed to the current team and looks to do so in 2015.
The Steelers third round pick was scheduled to be Larry Foote's eventual replacement at inside linebacker. Sean Spence was a fiery competitor from the University of Miami who suffered a gruesome knee injury in the preseason of his rookie year. Spence tore nearly every ligament in his knee and had nerve damage which some thought would make it impossible for him to return to the playing field. After over a year of rehab and an additional hand injury, Spence finally broke into the lineup in 2014 as he saw significant playing time at inside linebacker when rookie Ryan Shazier suffered multiple injuries. Spence may never be the same as before his knee injury, but his determination and grit to get back on the field is something which has inspired other players as he looks to contribute more in 2015.
The fourth round saw the first draft pick who isn't currently on the team's 2015 roster. Alameda Ta'amu was the Steelers attempt to replace Casey Hampton at the nose tackle position, and Ta'amu stuck with the team for his rookie season, even after evading police while driving drunk and struck several vehicles in the process. The team eventually suspended Ta'amu for two weeks and he was released the next season. Ta'amu is now a member of the Arizona Cardinals football team.
The 5th round saw the Steelers take the small and quick running back from Florida, Chris Rainey. Rainey was expected to be the team's kick and punt returner as well as a dynamic wrinkle into the team's sometimes stagnant offense. The Steelers were forced to use Rainey more than just a gimmick player his rookie season, and Rainey remained with the team until he was arrested for battery in the offseason. The team released him and he was signed by the Indianapolis Colts, who also later released the running back. After stint on the Cardinals' practice squad, Rainey now plays football in the CFL north of the border.
With no 6th round pick, the Steelers had four 7th round selections. With their first pick they selected WR Toney Clemons. Clemons was eventually taken off the Steelers' practice squad as he was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. After spending a year with the Jaguars, the San Diego Chargers signed the wide receiver who eventually found his way to the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers released him in 2014 and he now, like Rainey, plays in the CFL.
The team's second 7th round pick was tight end David Paulson from Oregon. Paulson stuck with the team for a few seasons, but is most remembered for a crucial fumble on a Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013. Paulson is now a member of the Chargers' organization. The following 7th round draft choice was defensive back Terrence Frederick. Frederick never played a meaningful down with the Steelers, but did spend time with the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and spent 2014 with the New Orleans Saints.
The Steelers final draft pick was an extremely valuable as they picked Kelvin Beachum. Beachum is not only the 2015 Steelers' starting left tackle, but has played nearly every position along the offensive line in his time with the organization. When Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the season in 2013 with a knee injury, Beachum served as the center until Fernando Velasco was signed to fill in. Beachum has filled in at guard, but eventually found his home as the team's starting left tackle. The smallest tackle in the NFL, Beachum has done admirably against much bigger pass rushers and proves some great talent can still be had late in the draft.
BTSC Draft Overview:
Some may look at this draft and see a bunch of duds, but if you look at the number of players who are still contributing to the current roster, you have to think twice. DeCastro is the furthest thing from a bust there is, Adams has shown improvement, albeit far from 2nd round talent, Spence looks to be a contributor in 2015 and Beachum has become a key cog along the offensive line. Even Paulson and Rainey had their moments with the team before going elsewhere.