Report Card Grades for Every Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Acquisition

Mike BatistaContributor IJune 21, 2012

Report Card Grades for Every Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Acquisition

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    Like students across America, the Pittsburgh Steelers are on their summer vacation.

    Organized team activities and minicamp are over. The Steelers are off until training camp begins July 25.

    Of course, summer vacation begins with a report card.

    Since the Steelers' season abruptly ended in Denver on Jan. 8, they've acquired 42 players through the NFL draft, undrafted free agency and unrestricted free agency. 

    Most of these guys will be long gone by the time the Steelers go back to Denver Sept. 9 to open the 2012 season.

    Let's take a look at the ones who have the best chance to stick around and grade each of these offseason acquisitions.

Quarterbacks

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    Troy Smith

    (Signed Jan. 20)

    Smith won the Heisman Trophy in 2006 at Ohio State. He's one of the many quarterbacks since 2000 to win the award and not amount to much in the NFL, joining Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch, Jason White and Matt Leinart.

    Maybe someday Tim Tebow will join that list.

    Smith is pictured here leading the Baltimore Ravens to a victory over the Steelers, but it was the meaningless 2007 season finale, and he's put a lot of stickers on his suitcase since then.

    Smith started six games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2010 after being cut by the Ravens before the season. Last season, he played for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League

    The Steelers could use a quarterback younger than 30. Ben Roethlisberger just hit the big three-oh. Byron Leftwich is 32 and Charlie Batch is 37.

    Smith, 28, isn't much younger than Roethlisberger. In 20 NFL games with eight starts, he's thrown eight touchdown passes and five interceptions with a 78.5 rating, according to NFL.com.

    The best he can hope for is to overtake Leftwich or Batch as one of Roethlisberger's backups.

    That might be a tall order.

    Grade: C

    Jerrod Johnson

    (Signed Jan. 14)

    Johnson was on track to be a Heisman Trophy candidate at Texas A&M. Then he had shoulder surgery before the 2010 season.

    He lost his starting job that year to Ryan Tannehill, and was not chosen in the 2011 NFL draft.

    Johnson tried to make the Eagles last year, but was cut during the preseason.

    Johnson altered his throwing motion after his injury, and it took him a while to get it back to where it was, according to his blog from Steelers minicamp in the Bryan-College Station Eagle.

    At 6'5", 251 pounds, Johnson has the prototypical size of a quarterback in today's NFL. As a 23-year-old, he has time for his upside to develop, if there is any.

    Grade: C-plus

Running Backs

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    Chris Rainey

    (Drafted in fifth round)

    The Steelers put aside Rainey's character concerns and drafted him to add speed, shiftiness and versatility to their offensive backfield.

    The 5'9", 175-pound Rainey can run, catch passes and return kicks. In his senior season, he became Florida's first running back since Emmitt Smith to lead the team in rushing yards (861) and receptions (31), according to CBSSports.com.

    The Steelers were smart to address the running back position in the draft. Isaac Redman seems ready to take over as the starting running back while Rashard Mendenhall recovers from ACL surgery. Behind him are Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay and Baron Batch. All are big, bruising backs.

    Rainey adds a new dimension.

    Grade: A-minus

    Will Johnson

    (Signed March 21)

    The 6'2", 238-pounder is a fullback/H-back type from West Virginia.

    The Steelers signed Johnson after seeing him at the Mountaineers' 2012 Pro Day, even though he was part of the 2011 draft class and went undrafted, according to CBSSports.com.

    Johnson worked out both as a fullback and tight end at the Pro Day, and with David Johnson moving from tight end to fullback, he might have a better chance to crack the Steelers' tight end depth chart.

    Grade: B-minus

Wide Receivers

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    Toney Clemons

    (Drafted in seventh round)

    Clemons might have the inside track on the Steelers' No. 5 receiver spot. In the unlikely event that the Steelers are without Mike Wallace's services for any part of the season, the No. 4 spot could be up for grabs.

    Unlike Wallace, the 6'2", 210-pound Clemons isn't afraid to catch passes over the middle, according to NFL.com. He also can make things happen after the catch.

    Grade: B-plus

    Marquis Maze

    (Signed April 30 as an undrafted free agent)

    Maze set the tone in Alabama's BCS championship game victory over LSU in January with a 49-yard punt return. Unfortunately, he injured his hamstring on the return, and that might have hurt his draft stock.

    NFL.com says Maze is "a threat to score every time he touches the ball." However, his 5'8", 186-pound frame will be a disadvantage in the NFL. 

    Maze caught 56 passes for 627 yards in his senior season at Alabama.

    Grade: B-minus

    Derrick Williams

    (Signed Jan. 20)

    The Detroit Lions drafted Williams in the third round of the 2009 draft, two picks ahead of Mike Wallace.

    Whoops.

    Williams, a former Penn State receiver, caught a total of nine passes in 2009 and 2010 and was cut last season.

    That's nine more NFL receptions, however, than some of the receivers he'll be competing against.

    Grade: C-plus

Offensive Linemen

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    David DeCastro, OG

    (Drafted in first round)

    Finding a mock draft in the winter of 2012 with David DeCastro's name next to the Steelers would be like finding a hair on Casey Hampton's head.

    Very few draft experts, if any, figured that DeCastro would fall to the Steelers at No. 24 in the first round of the NFL draft. He was projected to go in the top 15.

    With the Stanford guard available, there wasn't much for the Steelers to think about when their turn came to pick. Now they have their likely starter at right guard.

    Grade: A

    Mike Adams, OT

    (Drafted in second round)

    It's funny to think that a man could be responsible for protecting Ben Roethlisberger's blind side just months after grovelling at the feet of Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert.

    That's basically what Adams of Ohio State had to do to get back in the Steelers' good graces after he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine and lied about it.

    Now, there's a real chance Adams could usurp second-year man Marcus Gilbert and win the starting job at left tackle, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    I gave the Adams pick a "C" when I graded the Steelers' draft. I must be softening up.

    Grade: B-minus

    John Malecki, OG

    (Signed Jan. 10)

    The former University of Pittsburgh lineman already faced long odds in his effort to crack the Steelers' depth chart at guard.

    Then the odds grew even longer when the Steelers drafted DeCastro.

    This isn't Malecki's first tour of duty with the Steelers. He spent time on their practice squad last season before being cut and joining the Redskins' practice squad, according to the Washington Post.

    In 2010, the Tennessee Titans signed Malecki as an undrafted free agent, then cut him in August. Later in the year he hooked on with the Browns and Buccaneers.

    Grade: C

    Kelvin Beachum, OG

    (Drafted in seventh round)

    The Steelers drafted Beachum from SMU with their last compensatory pick. He was drafted as a tackle but has moved to guard, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

    According to NFL.com, Beachum might not have the strength to compete for a spot on what suddenly might be a talented Steelers offensive line.

    Grade: C-minus

    Chris Scott, OT

    (Signed Jan. 10)

    Scott's face is a familiar one at Heinz Field.

    The Steelers drafted him in the fifth round from Tennessee in 2010. He was active for two games in 2011 before the Steelers released him to bring back Max Starks, according to Pro Football Talk.

    It doesn't look like the Steelers will be bringing back Starks this year. So if they like him better than Scott, then what's Scott doing back?

    Grade: F

Tight Ends

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    Leonard Pope

    (Signed as an unrestricted free agent April 10)

    It's nice to have someone who's familiar with new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

    Pope played in Arizona when Haley was offensive coordinator there and he went with him to Kansas City in 2009.

    Pope says he's learning Haley's playbook just like the rest of his new teammates, according to the Associated Press via WTAE.com.

    He could just be blowing smoke, but at the very least Pope can help the Steelers deal with Haley's personality, which could take some getting used to.

    It's hard not to get excited about the 6-foot-8 Pope becoming an option for Ben Roethlisberger in the red zone.

    The only thing that tempers this acquisition is Pope's productivity. He's never caught more than 24 passes in a season.

    Grade: B

    David Paulson

    (Drafted in seventh round)

    The Steelers used the first of their three seventh-round compensatory picks on the Oregon tight end.

    At 6'3", 245 pounds, Paulson might not be tall enough to fit the mold of the towering tight ends that are in vogue in today's NFL. According to NFL.com, Paulson might not have the speed to consistently get open at the next level.

    However, with David Johnson moving from tight end to fullback and Weslye Saunders serving a four-game suspension, Paulson could crack the Steelers' roster.

    Grade: B-minus

Special Teamers

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    Drew Butler, P

    (Signed April 30 as an undrafted free agent)

    The former Georgia punter is the son of former Bears kicker Kevin Butler.

    Drew Butler won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter in his sophomore season, averaging 48.1 yards per punt on 58 punts, according to Steelers.com.

    Injury-prone Daniel Sepulveda is a free agent, so Jeremy Kapinos figures to be Butler's main competition for the job.

    Grade: B

    Danny Hrapmann, K

    (Signed May 18)

    The Steelers need a better kicker than Shaun Suisham, but Hrapmann might not be the answer.

    He made just 23 of his 34 field goal attempts (67.6 percent) for Southern Mississippi in 2011, according to ESPN.com. Between 40 and 49 yards he was a shaky 7 for 13.

    Grade: D

    Matt Katula, LS

    (Signed June 12 as an unrestricted free agent)

    Katula served as a long snapper for the Baltimore Ravens from 2005 to 2009, then went to the New England Patriots in 2010 and the Minnesota Vikings last season.

    If you haven't heard of Katula, let's hope it stays that way if he remains with the Steelers, because that means he's doing his job.

    Grade: B

Defensive Linemen

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    Alameda Ta'amu, NT

    (Drafted in fourth round)

    Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said he expects Casey Hampton to start the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list following ACL surgery in January, according to The Sporting News.

    Surgery or no surgery, the Steelers needed a successor at nose tackle to Hampton, who will be 35 next season. They traded up 10 spots in the fourth round to grab Ta'amu from Washington.

    No one knows how much Hampton really weighs, but the Steelers likely won't sacrifice any size at the position with the 6'3", 348-pound Ta'amu.

    Ta'amu performed his best when it mattered most, according to CBSSports.com. He shined in the 2010 Holiday Bowl against Nebraska and showed well at 2012 Senior Bowl practices.

    The knock on Ta'amu is that he doesn't play with enough intensity. If he can light that fire in his belly, he has a chance to be the opening-day starter at nose tackle. If not, Steve McLendon will have to keep the seat warm until Hampton comes back.

    Grade: B-plus

    Brandon Lindsey, DE

    (Signed April 30 as an undrafted free agent)

    Lindsey is currently the only Steelers defender familiar with the vagaries of the Heinz Field turf. The 6'2", 254-pounder played at the University of Pittsburgh.

    ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley says Lindsey "is a speed rusher who fell down draft boards after a disappointing combine."

    NFL.com suggested in its pre-draft analysis that Lindsey was solid but not spectacular.

    Lindsey recorded 22.5 sacks in three years at Pitt, according to ESPN.com.

    Like pitching in baseball, you never can have too many pass-rushers.

    Grade: B

    Kade Weston, DT

    (Signed Jan. 14)

    Weston has come a long way whether he makes the team or not.

    The New England Patriots drafted Weston out of Georgia in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL draft. He punctured his intestine during a preseason game and needed immediate surgery. He missed the 2010 season, according to The Asbury Park Press, as he worked to regain his weight and strength.

    The Patriots cut him in 2011, and he spent a week on the Colts' practice squad. The 6'5", 315-pounder could give the Steelers some bulk on the defensive line if he can win a roster spot.

    Grade: B-minus 

Linebackers

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    Sean Spence

    (Drafted in third round)

    Spence moved around the field like a pinball at Miami, making 110 total tackles in 2010 and 106 total tackles in 2011, according to ESPN.com.

    Spence might be a little undersized for an inside linebacker at 5'11", 231 pounds, but there's a good chance his talent will make people forget about his size.

    It's hard not to feel good about this draft pick. If Spence doesn't win a starting job in his rookie season, he'll at least be heard from on special teams.

    Grade: A-minus

    Brandon Johnson

    (Signed June 13 as an unrestricted free agent)

    The 29-year-old is entering his seventh season in the NFL. He was taken by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL draft and spent two years there.

    He then went to the Cincinnati Bengals for four years, his best year coming in 2008 when he started nine games and made a career-high 83 tackles.

    Johnson is primarily a special teams player. This move could be reminiscent of the Keyaron Fox acquisition before the 2008 season, one of the under-the-radar moves that helped the Steelers take home their sixth Lombardi Trophy that year.

    Grade: B

    Adrian Robinson

    (Signed April 30 as an undrafted free agent)

    The 6'1", 250-pound Robinson can cover tight ends, which is noted on CBSSports.com, and get to the quarterback.

    Playing defensive end at Temple, Robinson earned MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors as a sophomore by recording 13 sacks and forcing five fumbles. He followed that up with 10 sacks in his junior year and 6.5 sacks in his senior year, earning all-MAC first-team accolades both times.

    It remains to be seen if Robinson can be productive against elite competition.

    Grade: B-minus

Defensive Backs

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    Myron Rolle, S

    (Signed Feb. 8)

    Playbooks aren't the only books Rolle has been studying.

    Rolle was named third-team All-American after his junior year at Florida State. However, he also was named a Rhodes Scholar. So instead of entering the NFL draft, he spent a year at Oxford University.

    The Tennessee Titans chose him in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, but he never saw the field and was cut before the 2011 season.

    Rolle told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that his time away from the game made him rusty, and that's part of the reason it didn't work out for him in Tennessee.

    There might be room in Pittsburgh for the 25-year-old Rolle. Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu are entrenched as the starters at safety, but Clark will turn 33 next season and Polamalu is 31. Ryan Mundy, 27, has starting experience and might be hard to beat out.

    Beyond that, any spot on the depth chart could be within Rolle's reach. The Steelers didn't draft any safeties, so it remains a position of need.

    Hopefully for the Steelers, Rolle's academic accomplishments haven't made him too civilized for the game.

    Grade: C-plus

    Robert Golden, S-CB

    (Signed April 30 as an undrafted free agent)

    Golden played both safety and cornerback at Arizona, so he has the "position flexibility" that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin craves.

    SI.com hints that Golden might be better suited to the cornerback position because he's better at man-to-man coverage than zone coverage.

    Golden has decent ball skills, returning two of his four career interceptions for touchdowns in college.

    Grade: B-minus

    Walter McFadden, CB

    (Signed Jan. 20)

    Walter McFadden was teammates with his brother for a few weeks until the Steelers cut Bryant McFadden on Feb. 8

    The younger McFadden is no stranger to The Show. He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and played four games for them in 2010. They cut him before the 2011 season and he joined the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad.

    Walter McFadden made six interceptions at Auburn in 2009, according to ESPN.com.

    Grade: B-minus

    Terrence Frederick, CB

    (Drafted in seventh round)

    The Steelers used the third of their four seventh-round draft picks to choose this cornerback from Texas A&M.

    The 5'10", 187-pound Frederick is small and slow, according to NFL.com. That seems like a bad combination.

    However, he compensates with smarts, using angles in coverage.

    The Steelers have a three-way battle for the cornerback spot opposite Ike Taylor. Depending on who wins the starting job, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen or Curtis Brown can fill out the nickel and dime packages.

    Frederick is likely nothing more than training camp fodder. The reason this grade isn't lower is because you don't expect much from a seventh-round compensatory pick anyway.

    Grade: C

    Andre Freeman, CB

    (Signed May 18)

    Freeman is a local kid who played at Penn Hills High School and Division II Slippery Rock.

    The Steelers historically have had mixed results with Division II players.

    There was Greg Lloyd. Then there was 2004 second-round bust Ricardo Colclough. Isaac Redman is the only player from a Division II program currently on the Steelers' roster, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    Freeman made his presence felt at the Steelers' organized team activities. He stayed with fellow Steelers hopeful Marquis Maze in coverage and also made an interception.

    Fairy tales don't always come true in the NFL, but Freeman might have a puncher's chance of making his favorite team.

    Grade: B-minus