By Matthew Marczi
A while back in training camp, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum spoke to the media, and during the conversation, he mentioned that he would be getting in work at tight end that day. Not a great deal was made of it at the time, however, as the narrative was still fixated on his acquisition of center capabilities and the hypothetical battle for the right tackle job that he was supposedly in against Marcus Gilbert.
It did seem to make a great deal of sense, however. After all, if the team likes Beachum enough to even consider allowing him to compete for a starting spot, he is presumably good enough to play in general. And with the rash of injuries to the top end of the depth chart at tight end, a big blocking body could work as a fine stop-gap while the tight ends get healthy.
Still, nothing much came of the idea—that is, until the third preseason game last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. Beachum reported as eligible in a sixth lineman role on the very first offensive play of the game, and in fact fulfilled that role on a third of the team’s offensive snaps in the first half.
Including plays run but negated penalties, the Steelers ran 33 offensive plays in the first half, and Beachum was in at tight end on 12 of those snaps. They were split evenly between runs and passes, with five runs and five passes coming on the offensive right side and one run and one pass coming on the left. Beachum was in pass protection on the right side on the 25-yard Ben Roethlisberger pass to Antonio Brown that was negated by the incorrect chop block penalty called on Jonathan Dwyer.
On the Steelers’ first offensive play, Dwyer ran in Beachum’s direction. Gilbert moved up to the second level and right guard David DeCastro gave the back room to run. However, Beachum was unable to secure his block, and it resulted in just a two-yard gain.
On second down, however, he gave Roethlisberger plenty of time from the right side to hit Antonio Brown for a 49-yard gain.
After coming off for the third play, Beachum was once again called upon to run block from the right side, this time on Justin Houston. He did a nice job of keeping Houston close without giving away an obvious hold when Dwyer did the smart thing and bounced the play outside, because Eric Berry was coming in to fill the hole. The play resulted in a nice 13-yard pickup.
Two plays later, he made a decent block on Houston on a play that nonetheless lost a yard. After that, Beachum did not see any action until the fourth play of the team’s third drive, on the reverse carry by Emmanuel Sanders. Beachum was lined up on the left side and the play went to the weak side. Later on the drive, he made a nice recovery in pass protection to lead Houston around the pocket on the long completion to Brown negated by penalty.
He got in some good work on the next drive, however, running the first three snaps. On the first, he did his job in the run game. Then he followed it up with two nice plays in pass protection, one from each side of the formation. On the first, he stayed with his block on Houston despite losing the initial struggle, planted his back foot, and was able to gain the leverage to help Roethlisberger complete another pass down the field.
On the next play, he moved to the left side where he was ready to take on Tamba Hali. However, when Hali did not rush, Beachum smartly dropped back to help Mike Adams, who was losing the edge on his own block, which once again helped lead to a nice completion down the field.
Unfortunately, the drive stalled soon thereafter, and a subsequent blocked field goal led to another promising drive finishing with nothing to show for it. Beachum saw just two more snaps at tight end in the game, both of which came in pass protection on quick passes against Hali on the right side, where he held his own.
Considering it was Beachum’s first in-game experience at the tight end position, he really did a fine job in the role. If this was an audition for receiving regular season playing time as the sixth lineman, then he passed the test. A number of teams in recent years have been able to put six-lineman looks to good use; perhaps the Steelers could join their ranks in 2013.