The Pittsburgh Steelers spent most of the 2012 NFL Draft being lauded for their selections. We will all be hearing about how good OG David DeCastro is until the first blades of grass are stepped on in Latrobe this summer. The names Faneca and Hutchinson have been thrown around in comparison to DeCastro, so the giant from Stanford will have all eyes on him once the pigskin starts getting tossed around.
The controversial pick of T Mike Adams will be talked about until he proves the issues that kept him from being a first-round pick are truly in the past. LB Sean Spence was selected in the third round, a move that shocked Steeler Nation. His development will be fun to watch as his position and ability are debated. DT Alameda Ta’amu is expected to be the next Casey Hampton, a storyline that will unravel through the next season and into next year when Hampton projects to either retire or move on from Pittsburgh. The diminutive RB Chris Rainey will be watched to see if he can become the Steelers answer to Darren Sproles or Percy Harvin. Even WR Toney Clemons will have a built-in “hometown boy lives his dream” angle, returning to the city where he excelled as a player for Valley High School. CB Terrence Frederick is of course, a corner. There is no position that has been more scrutinized by Steeler Nation than cornerback, so fans will want to see if the team pulled in a steal with their late 7th round pick. We can even lump final pick OG Kelvin Beachum into the mix, simply because his arrival will push players like Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky for a spot on the 53-man roster.
The one player drafted by the team that is under virtually no pressure is seventh-round pick TE David Paulson of Oregon. Nobody expected the Steelers to bring another tight end into the mix, not after re-signing TE/FB David Johnson and signing veteran TE Leonard Pope. Even with second-year TE Weslye Saunders in the doghouse due to testing positive for a banned substance, the team is set at the position. Starter Heath Miller is a durable, productive tight end who will begin breaking every receiving record for Steelers tight ends this winter. He is as solid and set as a starter as anyone on this team, and his backup situation seemed to be handled.
Enter Paulson, a 6-foot 4, 241-lb tight end out of the University of Oregon. Having played for the Ducks during the most successful run in school football history, Paulson has seen the field during some huge games, including a National Title game (2011). He was a major contributor to Oregon during a string of three consecutive PAC 10(12) titles.
He showed up in the big games, including a 22-yard TD catch in the PAC-12 Championship Game vs. UCLA, and a career-high 8 receptions for 105 yards in the annual rivalry game vs. Oregon State. He also helped spring RB LaMichael James to numerous long runs with his timely blocks in the running game. Paulson was not an unknown commodity in the 2012 Draft, being ranked as the 18th overall TE in a talented class. While Paulson is probably not a player the Steelers will be looking at to replace Miller when the time comes, he could certainly develop into a solid backup, the type of player that Jerame Tuman was here from 1999-2007 after being a fifth-round pick.
The Steelers envision David Paulson as a player who could even – dare we say the word – line up as a FULLBACK. Despite his college career as primarily a tight end, Paulson has the athletic pedigree to be a blocking back, and once he gets into the Steelers program and reaps the benefits of position coaches like Tight Ends Coach James Daniel, Running Backs Coach Kirby Wilson, and Offensive Line Coach Sean Kugler, he could develop into quite the diverse athlete for the Steelers. Fans expecting him to step in and play in 2012 might be disappointed. With a new offense being learned this summer, it may be a year of practice squad and special teams assignments for Paulson. The teams signing of Pope, a former player for OC Todd Haley in Kansas City, probably secures the backup job for now. A season of learning from a professional like Heath Miller could be nothing but good for a young kid trying to make this roster. Regardless of where the team ends up pegging him on the roster, bet on David Paulson to not be the “forgotten man” in the Steelers 2012 Draft Class.
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