After last year’s 12-4 finish, expectations for the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers were high. The team’s front office, coaches, players and, most importantly, fans believed that improving on last season’s first-round playoff exit was well within the realm of possibility.
A deeper run in the playoffs required addressing some key weaknesses during the offseason. The Steelers spent last spring and summer re-signing important contributors, taking on a few free agents and bringing in some new blood through the draft.
As in any year, a few of those free-agent signings and draft picks paid off. Re-signing Keenan Lewis proved to be a great decision. The cornerback is a big reason why the Steelers have the top pass defense in the league. Opposing passers went after him relentlessly in the first half of the season, but Lewis held up beautifully, showed the ability to lock down receivers and looked like a long-term keeper for the team.
Others have performed about as well as could be expected. Rookie offensive lineman Mike Adams has had an up-and-down season that is normal for a second-round draft pick.
On the plus side, he has played more snaps at right tackle than any other player this season. He also has been an effective run-blocker, helping the Steelers' line generate 4.12 adjusted-line yards per rush over right tackle, good for 13th in the league. Adjusted-line yards is an advanced metric from Football Outsiders that measures an offensive line's contribution to the running game.
At the same time, Adams has struggled in pass protection. By the Week 12 game in which an injury ended his season, he ranked 55th among offensive tackles in pass-blocking efficiency.
And then there were those who did not shine so brightly and who contributed to the team's failure to qualify for the playoffs. Some big-name stars failed to improve on past performances, and some rookies didn’t play up to their potential.
The following is a list of six 2012 Steelers draft picks and free-agent signings who fell short of expectations this season. The list is organized from most to least disappointing.