Six years ago, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers somehow went all the way to Super Bowl XLIII and won it with a patchwork offensive line that consisted of Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Darnell Stapleton, and Willie Colon. From 2006-2009, Big Ben was sacked an average of 47.25 times per season. He was getting killed behind poor offensive lines and Steelers ownership and General Manager Kevin Colbert put a lot of focus on improving the line, largely through the draft.
Coach Mike Tomlin and the front office started to build the line starting in the middle by selecting center Maurkice Pouncey in 2010, who has been excellent and become the leader of the offensive line. The following year they selected Marcus Gilbert who has become a better than average right tackle. Ramon Foster developed from an undrafted free agent to a serviceable left guard. Finally in 2012, the Steelers thought they had completed the line with the selections of Stanford guard David DeCastro and Ohio State tackle Mike Adams.
By 2013, it looked as if the starting offensive line would be Adams, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro and Gilbert. However, in training camp, Adams underwhelmed and Gilbert got a shot at left tackle but failed to lock down the position. The position remained in such a bad spot that the Steelers traded for Arizona draft bust Levi Brown who promptly tore his triceps in a pregame warm up before ever taking a snap for the Steelers. During a time where the Steelers couldn’t get even average tackle play, an unheralded lineman named Kelvin Beachum stepped in.
Beachum was an afterthought. A guy drafted as the last of four seventh round picks; he was only five picks away from being Mr. Irrelevant. Beachum’s own teammate from Southern Methodist, guard Josh LeRibeus went four rounds ahead of him. At 6’3″ and about 305 lbs. Beachum is considered fairly undersized for a left tackle. He didn’t necessarily have the pedigree of an Ohio State or Florida player. But despite all of these “shortcomings” Beachum has succeeded far beyond what the Steelers expected.
Beachum has been a major factor in solidifying the line. He’s not going to the Pro Bowl and he’s not getting much fanfare from the national media but he’s a Steeler through and through. He’s a blue-collar player that has had to earn his place on the team.
Because he’s not as naturally athletic or as physically gifted as a lot of NFL left tackles he has had to rely on his technique and football intelligence to make up for it. He is an incredible technician with a high motor who has gotten even better under the tutelage of offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
On top of all that, he offers the best value of the offensive line and would be the bargain of the whole team if not for Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown‘s production to cost ratio. Beachum can safely be seen as in the top half of left tackles in the NFL and he comes at the low, low price of $581,474. Compare that to the poor performance of Minnesota Vikings tackle Matt Kalil who carries a price tag of $5,391,981, and you can see just what a deal the Steelers are getting with Beachum.
Beachum can be extended after this season and even if his 2015 salary increases exponentially, his ever-improving performance will make any future deal another thrifty bargain. Keeping Beachum, Pouncey, DeCastro, and Gilbert together in the years ahead could go a long ways towards keeping the offensive firepower the Steelers have together.