With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team as a whole has suffered its ups and downs throughout the season, particularly the bi-polar offense that prefers the comforts of home. Even with all the road struggles, however, the Steelers are ranked seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game.
On the flip side, the defense has struggled not only with youth and inexperience but also with injuries, en route to posting the 19th-best defense in points allowed, giving up 23.9 points per game, with hopes to start changing that down the home stretch.
Player: Kelvin Beachum, LT
The Pittsburgh Steelers thought they’d drafted their left tackle in the future when they doubled up on offensive linemen in the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft. While the jury is still out, they may have done just that, only it’s not the player they figured it would be.
When the Steelers drafted Kelvin Beachum with the last of four seventh-round draft picks that year, they figured he would be moved to guard on the professional level due to his size, despite the fact that he played left tackle throughout his playing days.
After struggling throughout the preseason and barely making the team as a rookie, he finished his first season as the starting right tackle due to injuries elsewhere in a performance that opened some eyes. The coaching staff was committed to getting him more involved last year, beginning with experimenting with him as a sixth lineman, but he eventually was put in the starting lineup over Mike Adams at left tackle after four games.
Beachum has started 22 of 23 games since then, missing one due to injury late last season. And his job security since then has never really been in question. He may not be a Pro Bowl player, but he doesn’t make many mistakes, and he plays with a high motor and solid technique.
He may have surrendered a moderately high number of sacks this season—three of which all came in one game—but sack totals don’t paint the full picture. Outside of the sacks given up, he hasn’t surrendered many other pressures or allowed his quarterback to be hit. And of course, when that quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger, sometimes it’s more difficult to avoid a sack.
His strength may never be in the run blocking department—he’ll lose his share of individual battles here—he does have the ability to execute in this area. The Steelers’ two best games on the ground were greatly aided by Beachum’s performance. It may be an area in which he must continue to grow, but the Steelers can certainly function with him there.