Player: Kelvin Beachum
Position: Offensive Tackle
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2015 Salary Cap Hit: $1,553,474
2015 Season Breakdown: The 2015 season for Kelvin Beachum was a short one, and certainly one that did not go according to plan following an offseason during which he and the Steelers front office were unable to work out a long-term contract extension that both parties could be satisfied with, instead choosing to play out the final year of his rookie deal.
The plan was, of course, to finish out the deal, potential raise his stock even further, and then hit unrestricted free agency, where he would be able to test the open market and see what is value really is in comparison to what the Steelers were willing or able to offer.
That plan went rather awry when he went down with an ACL tear during the sixth game of the season, the first major injury that he had suffered in his career. While he missed one game in 2013 as a starter, he played every single offensive snap during the 2014 season.
Beachum got the 2015 season off to a fairly rough start, having a tough time contending with the Patriots’ rotation of edge rushers, who had success both in the running and passing game off the left side, and even drew a couple of penalties in the process.
But that was as bad as it got for Beachum during the season, who showed steady and consistent grow from that point on up until his injury, with the Week Five contest against the Chargers being perhaps his best showing of the season, demonstrating his typically excellent footwork and hand placement in pass protection, and even getting involved in the run game, which has not, and will never be, his forte.
After his injury, the Steelers were forced to plug first-year Alejandro Villanueva into the starting lineup, complete with a fairly steep learning curve that the offense had to weather, and while there is optimism for the future there, the team did suffer in Beachum’s absence.
Free Agency Outlook: As much as it might be true that the team was worse off with Villanueva than with Beachum, however, and as much as, ideally, the Steelers would like to re-sign every one of their players every year, it’s not at all clear how getting a deal done with their starting left tackle is the more realistic outcome.
That will largely depend on how the open market dictates that an undersized and injured left tackle gets paid, of course, but he has plenty of things stacked in his favor as well, not the least of which being his age and the offense in which he played.
But the Steelers got an extended look at what the team would look like without him, and the prevailing theory is that it’s something they could live with if it comes with a substantially financial offset, which it would be in Villanueva’s case, whose rights they can safety and cheaply control for the next couple years.