Left Tackle Shuffle Forces Rethinking Of Backup Plan

By Matthew Marczi

The developments at the left tackle position over the past couple weeks obviously have wide-ranging implications with regards to how it affects the Pittsburgh Steelers and their plans going forward. The team obviously had hoped to plug in Mike Adams at left tackle and perhaps play him for the next decade there, but clearly he is not ready to do that just yet, if ever.

So instead, the team swapped him out in favor of Kelvin Beachum and traded for Levi Brown as a security blanket and an opportunity to strip Adams down and rebuild him fundamentally without the pressure of playing again right away.

Entering last week’s game, it was reported that the Steelers had the intention to rotate in Brown with Beachum at left tackle. Of course, Brown’s pre-game injury changed those plans, and likely changed other plans as well.

By happenstance, the Steelers were forced to ride Beachum at left tackle for the entire game, which in turn left them feeling confident that they could trust him, at least for now, without a short leash.

I suspect that this changes the team’s philosophy regarding who they decide to dress. Last week, Beachum was only in his trial run, and would still likely have been the first man called up to fill in at any other position on the line—provided Brown had not gotten injured, obviously. That, however, is no longer the case.

Asked Wednesday if Beachum would still be the primary backup at other positions, offensive coordinator Todd Haley said that he would not be, adding that they are “taking some of that [responsibility] off of him so he can just focus on one job”. That job is now, of course, the starting left tackle.

If I am reading between the lines properly, this suggests to me that it is finally time for Cody Wallace to dress for a game, because he is the only other lineman aside from Fernando Velasco and Beachum with experience at center.

Should an injury occur to Velasco, the Steelers do not want to have to pull Beachum out of left tackle to move him to the interior of the line. Beachum is the left tackle right now, and they do not want to turn his versatility into his own abattoir, preventing him from developing and excelling at a singular position simply because he can offer so much more because of his flexibility.

Now that the team has a sample size on which to judge Beachum’s capabilities at left tackle, they are ready to take the training wheels off and see what he can do without anybody holding his hand. This means unburdening him of the worries of being a human Swiss Army knife and being prepared at a moment’s notice to play kicker or safety.

It is time for Cody Wallace to prove himself an upgrade to John Malecki, whom the Steelers released after the final cuts in order to sign. In addition, Mike Adams will likely be back active as the reserve tackle. Wallace will serve as the reserve linemen at all three interior positions. Perhaps Adams will even be asked to take some reps at guard and become the primary backup at all four tackle and guard positions, as Beachum learned to do.

Maybe the Steelers will even have him get some work in at tight end and be used in the same way the team intended to employ Beachum this year. The immediate future for Adams is really somewhat unclear.

What does seem fairly certain at this point, however, is this: the team can no longer afford the luxury of not dressing him now with Brown out of the picture, because there is no way that Guy Whimper is a viable alternative at left tackle should something happen to Beachum.

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