Heading into any offseason, it is often very difficult to address the Pittsburgh Steelers’ needs without first looking at the offensive line as probably the highest priority.
However, with holes that need filled pretty much everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, there’s a good chance that the Steelers won’t be making massive upgrades up front.
Is that the right move?
That all depends on second-year pro Kelvin Beachum.
It would be nice, as Matt Gajtka, Larry Snyder and I discussed on Monday’s edition of Three Rivers…One Show, for the Steelers to land a young Anthony Munoz-type of left tackle in the draft that could protect Ben Roethlisberger‘s blind side for the rest of his career.
There are three problems with that scenario, the first of which being that the Steelers must target the defensive side of the ball early and often in the draft.
Then there is the fact that the Steelers have used high draft picks to upgrade the line the past few years, they may be reluctant to do so again.
The third of which is that those type of franchise tackles usually aren’t available when the Steelers select at No. 15.
That brings me back to Beachum, who started 11 of the Steelers’ final 12 games at left tackle and strengthened his grip on the position as the season progressed.
The team has not yet committed to Beachum at the position, which makes you wonder a bit what the long-term plans are.
“I don’t know what their plan is,” Beachum told ESPN’s Scott Brown. “All I can do is continue to prepare, look at film, grow from it. I learned a lot playing left tackle. All I can do is continue learning and continue getting better.”
Beachum provides value off the Steelers’ bench as is their most versatile lineman as he can play every position on the offensive line.
His performance during the season should at least make him the starter heading into camp, but the question remains of can he handle the position for a 16-game season and beyond?
That’s a question Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t really answer, but seemed to give the second-year man a slight vote of confidence.
“He’s got a big offseason and training camp [ahead of him],” Tomlin told Brown. “But he’s in pretty decent position from that regard.”
Beachum should get the opportunity, as it is unlikely the Steelers will have the cap flexibility to go out and sign a left tackle in free agency.
His biggest challenge will come from Mike Adams, who played poorly through four weeks, ultimately giving Beachum the opportunity to take the position and run with it.
Adams improved as the season went on and played pretty well in the game Beachum missed with a knee injury. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert must answer the question of whether a Beachum-Adams combination is enough.
If he’s convinced, the former seventh-round pick out of SMU could find himself a long-term home at left tackle.