By Matthew Marczi
Yesterday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers attempted to address their situation at the left tackle position by trading a conditional late-round draft pick to the Arizona Cardinals to acquire Levi Brown. There were many questions and some head-scratching surrounding the move, but now that the dust has settled, it seems to make sense.
Of course, a big part of that was revealed later in the evening after much of the dissenting thought had already been aired. Jason La Canfora reported that as a part of the trade, the Cardinals agreed to pay for all but the veteran minimum of Brown’s salary for the 2013 season.
When you factor in the displacement of the contract of Isaiah Green, whom the Steelers released in order to make room for their new lineman, the cost to the salary cap is negligible at a few hundred thousand.
In return, the Steelers get what may very well be their most viable option at left tackle right now, even if it may not seem like much. Brown, a former fifth overall draft pick, has been a starter since his second season in 2008, and moved to left tackle in 2010.
Excluding the 2012 season, which he missed due to injury, Brown has logged 36 starts at left tackle, which is by far the most experience that the Steelers can claim to have on the roster at the moment.
Neither Marcus Gilbert nor Kelvin Beachum have any starting experience at left tackle. Gilbert practiced there this offseason, and Beachum has taken a couple of series at left tackle, but that is the extent of their experience. Mike Adams’s experience as a left tackle is what prompted the trade.
Speaking personally, I believe the jury is still very much out on Brown and what he can offer the Steelers. It is still highly questionable that Brown would even be projected to start following the off week. It has previously been reported that some expect Beachum to be given the opportunity, but there is still a week and a half for that situation to sort itself out, as the Fernando Velasco situation did early in the year.
There is no hiding the fact that Brown has his issues in pass protection. After all, the Cardinals paid to get rid of him and did not ask terribly much in return. But of the four sacks he has given up this year, three came in the first game, which was his first since 2011. Perhaps he had some cobwebs to shake out.
His run blocking, on the other hand, has not been an issue this season, nor throughout his career. There really is not much for the fan base to do in this situation but take the wait and see approach. Will he even play? If he does, will he be an upgrade? Surely, the least he can offer is a seventh lineman that can actually play in a game to allow Beachum to do other things, which evidently cannot be said for Guy Whimper.