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AFC North Draft Summary: Pittsburgh Steelers Continue to Reload

April 30th, 2012 at 7:08 AM
By Chuck Chapman

There's a reason the Pittsburgh Steelers have six Super Bowl trophies in franchise trophies. Over the years, perhaps no NFL team has consistently drafted as well as Pittsburgh. The 2012 NFL Draft is no different as the Steelers used their selections to overhaul an aging roster.

Here's how Bengals 101 graded out the Steelers as well as the rest of the Cincinnati Bengals' AFC North Rivals:

Pittsburgh Steelers: A The Bengals excellent draft might have been more outstanding if not for the job done by the Steelers' war room. Going into the draft, the Steelers were struggling under the strain of a roster being depleted by age and a salary cap number that made free agency cost prohibitive. For Pittsburgh, the 2012 NFL Draft was a make or break proposition. The made out very well.

Pittsburgh came into the draft needing immediate help along the offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger has played tough over the past couple of seasons, but the Steelers know he can't continue to take the beating he's been receiving. After the Bengals traded down, the Steelers selected Stanford guard David DeCastro with their first pick. The dip in performance from Pittsburgh's line really began when perennial All Pro guard Alan Faneca left. DeCastro should finally fill Faneca's large shoes and be an anchor along Pittsburgh's line for years to come. 

In the second round, the Steelers got another value pick in Ohio State tackle Mike Adams. Adams failed a drug test at the combine for marijuana usage and slid out of the first round all the way down to Pittsburgh. Assuming Adams stays clean, this pick is an absolute bargain for the Steelers, giving them someone to protect Big Ben's back side.

The middle rounds were equally successful for Pittsburgh, seeing them grab underrated tackling machine Sean Spence from Miami, Casey Hampton's eventual replacement, Alameda Ta'amu and Florida speed merchant Chris Rainey.

Baltimore Ravens: B+ The Ravens came into the draft needing to replace departed free agents along the offensive line and at linebacker. They went about their business effectively, even trading out of the first round to amass more selections after Kevin Zeitler and Dont'a Hightower, the two top players on their board, went to Cincinnati and New England.

Even though the Ravens missed their top targets, they still got excellent value with their picks. Another Alabama linebacker, OLB Courney Upshaw fell to the Ravens with their first pick in the second round. Upshaw should make up for the loss of Jarrett Johnson. They then went after underrated tackle Keleche Osemele from Iowa State and guard Gino Gradkowski, brother of Bengals quarterback Bruce, to shore up their depleted offensive line.

Their third round pick, Bernard Pierce from Temple, is a bruising between the tackles runner who should take some of the pressure off of Ray Rice which the Ravens hope will improve his endurance and prolong his career. The other pick that jumps out from the Ravens' selections is Miami WR Tommy Streeter. Streeter most definitely left Miami too early and plummeted all the way into the sixth round. He's extremely raw, but at 6'5" and with blazing speed, the Ravens may have found their version of the late Chris Henry.

Cleveland Browns: C The Browns got some talent, but either overpaid or overreached for much of it. Their grade could have been much lower if not for some shrewd selections at the end of the draft.

Cleveland traded three picks to move up one spot to ensure getting Alabama running back Trent Richardson. If Richardson is as advertised, then the Browns will have certainly gotten their money's worth. There are questions about his durability, however.

With their second first round pick, the Browns made a decision that will alter the course of their team. Rather than equip Colts McCoy with some receiving weapons that he was sorely lacking, they chose what will undoubtedly be his replacement in Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden. At 29, Weeden is no project. He must start immediately, which means McCoy will either sit or the Browns will have to deal him. The question is whether or not Weeden will represent that much of an improvement over McCoy in the immediate future. With Weeden's age, there's no room for time for him to develop.

That made it all the more curious that the Browns eschewed getting any wide receiver help over the next two rounds when some top flight receivers were still on the board. Instead the Browns went for offensive line help with Cal tackle Mitchell Schwartz and defensive line depth with Cincinnati DT John Hughes. It's not that these players weren't needed. They were, especially along the offensive line. And it's not that these players aren't good. They are, but both were reaches at that position and cost the Browns a shot at some very good receivers.

The Browns finally got their receiver with Miami speedster Travis Benjamin in the fourth round. The question marks surrounding Benjamin include his route running and tendency to disappear against tougher corners. I'm not entirely sure he gives the Browns that much of an upgrade at a position that's very weak on their team.

The Browns got a steal with Boise State DT Billy Winn in round six. The only problem is that they had already spent an earlier pick on Hughes and have two excellent defensive tackles on the roster already in Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin. 

The Browns entered the draft with a question mark at quarterback and a need for offensive play makers. They got one play maker in Richardson, but the other issues still remain.


Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Football, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers

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