The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Kelvin Beachum
Position: Left Tackle
Experience: 4 Years
2015 was meant to be a big season for fourth-year tackle Kelvin Beachum. A former compensatory seventh-round draft pick, he entered the starting lineup at left tackle early in his second season, and showed sustained improvement over the subsequent two years.
He at that point thrust himself deep into position to acquire a profitable contract extension during the 2015 offseason heading into the final year of his rookie contract. For whatever reason—no figures have ever been revealed—the two sides failed to reach an equitable agreement, however, and the 6’3” tackle saw to playing out his final season under contract.
Six games into the year, of course, Beachum suffered a torn ACL that ended his season. It was only the second injury to cause him to miss a game, and the third overall in his career, after logging every single snap on offense in 2014 while putting his name on the map as a strong pass-blocking left tackle.
Things did not start off so promisingly for him in 2015, however, as he had a rather poor showing in the season opener against New England’s defensive ends. He struggled in all facets of the game, even false starting at the goal line and giving up a sack on a three-man rush after growing frustrated from an illegal hands to the face call the play before.
He did begin to settle down a week later as the whole team largely dominated the 49ers in Pittsburgh’s home opener. Beachum’s performance somewhat fluctuated over the course of the six games in which he played, but it certainly never got as bad as his showing in the season opener against the Patriots.
His final complete game against the Chargers was perhaps his best game of the season, particularly so in pass protection, where he routinely showed off his excellent footwork and hand placement to keep the Chargers’ pass rush at bay. He even threw in some solid blocks in the run game, which has not been his strong suit, though he also was beaten on occasion.
The 2015 season did not offer a complete body of work from which to judge Beachum, given that it was cut significantly short. He seemed to be hitting his stride when the injury struck—in fact, he has tended to improve as the season progresses in each of the past three seasons.
Was this his final season in Pittsburgh? Will Alejandro Villanueva’s potential help push him out the door? It certainly would not be a surprise. What would take me by surprise is if he finds himself being kicked inside somewhere, as I believe he has earned the right to play tackle in spite of his height. His strengths lend themselves more to playing on the outside than in the interior, anyway, which is why I have always found the narrative perplexing.