On the Steelers: Could Beachum solve left tackle puzzle?
October 18, 2013 12:00 PM
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin shares a laugh with left tackle Kelvin Beachum in London.
Kelvin Beachum is the Steelers' emergency left tackle, but he could have a long future at the position.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers stop-gap measure to find an offensive left tackle landed on Kelvin Beachum, their final draft pick of 2012 who has been a jack-of-all trades for them.
But what if Beachum becomes not just their temporary, emergency left tackle but their future left tackle?
What if, after sinking two second-round picks into the position, the Steelers' current and future left tackle is someone they drafted to be a guard with their third pick in the seventh round last year
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Why not Kelvin Beachum?
Scouts will tell you why. At 6 feet 3, he is not tall enough. At barely 300 pounds, he is not heavy enough. Tunch Ilkin says enough is enough.
Ilkin was a guard/center who ultimately became an undersized starting tackle at 6-3, 265 pounds in the 1980s and early 1990s. He went against 300-pounders and up, people such as Hall of Famer Reggie White. He compensated for his size by using his hands, his feet, his strength and his intelligence.
He worked with Beachum in the spring on how to use his hands and believes he has better qualities than mere size to make it as the Steelers' starting left tackle.
"His hands are good enough, his feet are good enough, and he's athletic," Ilkin said. "I've always thought size was overrated."
It certainly was for the 6-7, 323-pound Adams, who appeared top-heavy while trying to block pass-rushers through the first four games. Adams could resurface at tackle, but, right now, the Steelers like Beachum as a better alternative.
And yet he was either their third or fourth choice to play the position. Marcus Gilbert was there through the spring and into the start of training camp before they switched him to right tackle and put Adams on the left side. Then, they traded for Levi Brown, who promptly ripped up his triceps for the second time in the past two years and was placed on injured reserve before he played a down.
For now, Beachum is it. He already has played center and tight end this season, but he'd like to stay at left tackle, where he started 52 games at SMU.
"It's something I've loved doing for a long time," Beachum said. "If they said, 'Beachum, come and pick the position you want to play,' it would be left tackle."
It's only five games into his second season but it would seem that Beachum already was pigeon-holed as the jack-of-all-trades lineman. He replaced Maurkice Pouncey when the Pro Bowl center left with an ACL tear after the first series of the first game. He played tight end. Last season, he started five games at right tackle after injuries to Adams and Gilbert.
The only position he has not yet played in a real game is guard, the one for which he was drafted.
"One thing about Kelvin is, every time we say he's this, he shows he can be something more, and that's happened at every position," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "Now, it's left tackle."
The Steelers have eased his other duties as a backup guard, center and tight end so Beachum can concentrate on playing left tackle. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seems satisfied having him there at the moment and would not rule out keeping him there.
"He doesn't fit the typical tackle mode," Roethlisberger said. "Size-wise, if you would ask any GM or coach around how they'd build their typical tackle it's not going to be him.
"But you know what? What he has that makes up for it is his heart and desire, the want-to, to protect me, to be good in the run game. I think that makes up for his stature. He actually is stronger than people give him credit for. He's pretty strong and very athletic, that helps a lot, too."
Beachum fared OK in his first game, receiving the highest grade of any of the Steelers' linemen for his blocking against the New York Jets, despite attracting several penalties.
Sunday, he will see plenty of one of the Steelers' -- and Roethlisberger's -- main tormentors, Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs, who leads the Ravens with seven sacks.
"I just went back to 2010 and 2011 looking at his battles with Max Starks," Beachum said. "They didn't like each other."
Said Haley, "He's got his work cut out for him, there's no doubt about it. This will be the biggest test to date, he's working hard to get ready but 55 is a great player."