Matt Williamson from ESPN handed out offseason grades for the teams in the AFC. This was his criteria for assigning the grades:
Did teams fill their needs in free agency? Did they re-sign key free agents? Did they plug any remaining holes in the draft? To put it simply: Is every team better or worse than it was at the end of the 2011 season?
He ended up giving the Cleveland Browns a C-, along with several other teams. Only two teams, the Houston Texans and the Oakland Raiders, had worse grades than Cleveland. Here is one of my issues with Cleveland's grade: what did a team like Pittsburgh, who did nothing out of the ordinary, do to deserve a "B" grade compared to a team like the Browns? This isn't supposed to be a power rankings feature, and Pittsburgh has a lot of issues on defense they need to solve over the next couple of years.
In terms of free agency, the Steelers didn't do anything. They actually lost several of their former key defenders, as well as other talent who had been on the team forever. The Browns' biggest loss that went unaddressed was safety Mike Adams, but they added two defensive ends to improve that area after making it younger through the draft in 2011.
After having a decimated and terrible line, Pittsburgh drafting David DeCastro and Michael Adams drew extensive praise from Williamson:
DeCastro should start immediately at right guard, and Adams is penciled in at left tackle. Going from left to right, the Steelers feature this young, talented group: Adams, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert. That could be an elite unit before long and possibly the missing ingredient to getting Pittsburgh back to the Super Bowl.
Elite? Unless you've got a Joe Thomas on your roster, you're not elite. Instead of praising Cleveland for completing their offensive line, it receives just a quick mention.
Schwartz is also a quality addition at a need position for an offense in desperate need of upgrades.
Williamson had some more "optimistic" words about the team's offeseason.
On defense, the Browns need more help. And I still think the Browns' offense will rank among the league's worst in 2012. Adding Richardson is fantastic, but unless Weeden is the answer at quarterback, I can't commend this offseason overall, especially considering the wealth of needs this organization had.
Fantastic running back? Trying to improve at quarterback, the most important position on the field? Completing the offensive line? Getting three immediate starters on offense with their first three draft picks? Yes, the wide receiver position went unaddressed, but you can't hit on everything. What else was Cleveland supposed to do this offseason to be commended? Just because they didn't reach the "best team in football" level shouldn't mean squat. The question was, "are they a better team than they were at the end of the 2011 season?" The answer is yes for Cleveland. For Pittsburgh? Not that they are worse, but they didn't improve enough to receive a grade higher than Cleveland.