The Steelers had several fears coming into the season when it came to
their seemingly always banged-up offensive line and their quickly aging
defense. They tried to address those issues through the NFL draft in April — but with injuries and poor play, their top three picks may go wasted this season.
Guard David Decastro, a first-round pick, was put on the NFL’s new injured reserve list, which means he can return to practice after Week 6 and return to in-game action after Week 8. DeCastro was supposed to revamp the Steelers’ interior line and start at left guard before going down with a dislocated kneecap, a torn MCL and a partially torn patellar tendon in his right knee. DeCastro was extremely high on most draft boards coming out of Stanford and was looked at as one of the few “sure things” in the 2012 draft. But, due to the severity of DeCastro’s knee injury, placing him on an injured reserve list where he can hope to return this season may have been wishful thinking for Pittsburgh.
Third-round linebacker Sean Spence was a surprise pick for the Steelers. His small stature didn’t fit with the typical Steelers defender, but with fast, athletic tight ends becoming all the rage, so are smaller, undersized weak-side linebackers like Spence who can cover hybrid tight ends. But Spence was lost for the season in the Steelers’ final preseason game with “multiple torn ligaments,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Mike Adams has predictably struggled during the 2012 preseason and was getting lit up by the Broncos when asked to step in at right tackle after Marcus Gilbert hyperextended his knee in Week 1. Adams was seen as a developmental prospect entering the 2012 draft, and after a reported failed drug test at the 2012 NFL combine, was a surprise second-round pick. If Adams lives up to his potential, he could be a franchise left tackle, but what this Steelers team needed was a player like DeCastro who could step in right away and help protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Prior to Week 1, it looked like the Steelers had a cakewalk in Week 2 against the Jets. But after a spectacular effort against the Bills, the “Tebows” don’t look so easy any more. Rookie defensive end Quinton Coples could be a handful for Gilbert if his tweaked knee is still bothering him. If rookie Adams has to come in for the second straight week, Coples proved at the 2012 Senior Bowl practices that Adams is no match for him.
After seeing the Week 1 success of Patriots’ rookies Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Tavon Wilson, it’s an instant detraction for the Steelers to get little or no value out of their top three picks. Combine the lack of youth on the Steelers’ roster with a star wide receiver who missed all of the preseason, an unclear running back situation, a shallow offensive line and a more difficult schedule due to a strengthened AFC North division, and it could be a recipe for disaster for Pittsburgh.
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