After playing all five positions across the offensive line in the first few weeks of training camp, second-year player Kelvin Beachum has been working exclusively at tackle recently. Is that a sign that Beachum is pushing Marcus Gilbert or Mike Adams for a starting job?
Coach Mike Tomlin did not shut the door Thursday on that possibility.
"He's doing a nice job," Tomlin said of Beachum. "In order to do that, you have to nail him down and give him some consistent participation at one position. He played tackle last week and he's playing tackle again this week. He'll be given an opportunity to make a case for himself in that regard.
"But you also have to acknowledge that this guy is versatile. We've asked him to work at center and guard. He's done a great job at both, so he has value. But we're not going to put him in a box. We're going to give him an opportunity to ascend like we'll give anyone an opportunity to ascend, even though he is doing multiple things."
As the line's top reserve, Beachum is the first option if Tomlin is looking to shake up his struggling line.
In the first two preseason games, the line has given up nine sacks. It also has been penalized six times for 45 yards, including one holding call that was declined. In the first half Monday night against the Washington Redskins, the first-team line was called for four penalties in the span of 17 minutes.
Gilbert and Adams struggled at times against the Redskins. Adams was called for two penalties and Gilbert allowed Redskins defensive end Ryan Kerrigan to get around him for a strip sack. Gilbert also was called for a holding penalty in the first preseason game against the New York Giants.
After working behind Gilbert at right tackle early in training camp, Beachum said he has been practicing behind Adams at left tackle this week.
"I'm just being where they need me to be right now, working on my technique at that position and making myself a viable option whenever my number is called," Beachum said.
As a rookie, Beachum started five games at right tackle in 2012 when Adams was injured. He played left tackle at SMU, but going back and forth is not an issue.
"I've gotten used to it," he said.
"I've been doing it. I played some right tackle last year and played both in OTAs. I'm getting used to being able to flip. At the end of the day, you have to play football, still have to punch, move your feet and play with your eyes."
Left guard Ramon Foster promised better results from the line this week in the third preseason game Saturday night at Heinz Field against the Kansas City Chiefs. Foster was the only player not to give up a sack or get called for a penalty last week.
"We're not going to make any excuses about our pass pro[tection]," Foster said. "We'll be better in that department. That's not something we take for granted whatsoever."
One thing the first-team offensive line has done fairly well is block for runs. Gilbert said the discrepancy between the run-blocking and pass-blocking likely has more to do with the emphasis the coaches have put on the run game in training camp. He also said there had been little game-planning for the first two preseason opponents.
The Steelers, however, will approach the game against Kansas City as if it were a regular-season game. For that reason, Gilbert expects better results in pass protection.
"You can put it on us," Gilbert said. "There is no way a defensive player should touch the quarterback. We have to keep him clean and do a better job this week. It's not like guys aren't trying and busting their tail. We're all coming to work. We just have to be in-synch at once."
No timetable for Miller
One day after tight end David Johnson was removed from the physically-unable-to-perform list, starting tight end Heath Miller said he does not have a timetable for his return. Miller, also rehabilitating a major knee injury, remains on the PUP list.
"Like I've said all along -- and I'm being truthful when I say it, I'm not just giving you guys the company line -- I'm just really taking it day by day," Miller said.
Tomlin said all players with minor injuries have a chance to play against the Chiefs, including cornerbacks Cortez Allen (knee) and Terry Hawthorne (knee), running backs LaRod Stephens-Howling (knee) and Isaac Redman (stinger) and defensive end Nick Williams. ... Tomlin said his intent is to play the starters for a half against the Chiefs.Steelers
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.