Pittsburgh Steelers third-year offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum made his 19th career start at left tackle against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, having also started five games at right tackle to close out his rookie season. He has started 24 games (at tackle—once as a tight end) in 30 career games, not bad at all for a player who was nearly Mr. Irrelevant.
His performance against the Colts may have been one of his best so far, at least when it comes to pass protection. The line as a whole played very well protecting Ben Roethlisberger, but was less successful in opening running lanes.
Nevertheless, the former seventh-round draft picked continued to show in this past game that athleticism, technique, and intelligence can bridge the gap that physical deficiencies in size and strength could create. Beachum was the Steelers’ best lineman on the day, and did not allow any pressure himself.
Early on the Steelers’ opening drive, on a 19-yard completion from Roethlisberger across midfield, the offensive line helped buy their quarterback time by easily navigating a pair of stunts executed by the Colts’ front line.
Cory Redding lined up against Beachum at the snap, but Josh Chapman stunted around Redding as he cut inside, with the nose tackle getting himself stranded against Beachum. Roethlisberger eventually found Martavis Bryant thanks to the protection up front.
As previously mentioned, however, Beachum did not have his best game against the run, which has never been his strength to begin with. On this first and goal run, he was unable to stop Erik Walden from cutting inside of him and into the backfield, even though Le’Veon Bell was able to use his speed to gain three yards before getting wrapped up.
Somewhere around the middle of the second quarter, Beachum was lined up across Zach Kerr, who was unable to get to Roethlisberger in the five plus seconds it took him to dump the ball off to Bell. While he got some late push, the left tackle anchored, and eventually got an assist late, knocking the rusher to the ground.
This play late in the first half I particularly like, because it shows proper recognition from the left tackle in facing a blitz. Specifically, it showed off his decision-making about who to block. In general, but particularly with an overloaded blitz, you block from the inside out, because the outside rusher is going to take longer to get to the quarterback.
This is what Beachum recognized on a D’Qwell Jackson blitz after initially squaring up with Bjoern Werner. After seeing that Ramon Foster was not going to pick him up, Beachum quickly slid over and halted the rushing linebacker, buying Roethlisberger time to get off a quick pass to his tight end for 10 yards and a first down.
As long as Beachum stays on top of his cues and keeps his eyes open on the stunts and blitzes, he should continue to be a solid answer for the Steelers at left tackle, particularly in pass protection. Considering they throw it about 60 percent of the time, that’s not too bad.