Thursday, May 9, 2013

Youth, Versatility Define Kelvin Beachum And Steelers Offensive Line

When Jack Bicknell, jr. was introduced as the Pittsburgh Steelers new offensive line coach back on January 29, 2013, one of the things all the pseudo-intellectual writers said was that the team was going to switch to a zone-blocking scheme. Well, two things about that: the Steelers have already been running behind some zone blocking the last few years, and they'd have to have the right personnel already in place to make a wholesale change.

Like Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin brought out regarding the subject when addressing members of the media at the NFL owner's meetings in mid March, the team will not commit itself to a philosophy it does not have the means to implement. He did point out, however, that the team will be looking into it throughout Training Camp and will look to use elements of it in their 2013 game plans.

That's to be expected since, top to bottom, the Steelers have very athletic offensive linemen, ones who have the ability to run this kind of scheme, despite not necessarily looking to run one scheme completely.

Once you get past potentially the youngest NFL starting five of Marcus Gilbert (as that seems to be the way the Steelers lean at left tackle), Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Mike Adams, your backups are Kelvin Beachum, John Malecki and new signee Guy Whimper. -

Beachum should see most of his snaps on the right side at guard and tackle, which we'll explore deeper presently.

Malecki can play guard as well as center and would be third in line behind Pouncey and Doug Legursky if he were to come back.

The newly acquired revolving door known as Whimper, 30 years old in the 2013 season, provides depth behind Adams and Gilbert at tackle and, should he make the Steelers’ roster, could be the first lineman off of the bench. Whimper, however, is ideally a right tackle and would only likely get a look on the left side in a desperate situation.

He was signed instead of Max Starks, who remains unsigned. The reason Starks wasn't initially brought back last offseason was that he didn't want to be a backup, only to start. The same most likely occurred this offseason. The Steelers could conceivably bring him back, though, if injuries were to strike and he remains unsigned. -

With respect to Dick Van Patten, eight is not enough, so behind them are a few players who have an outside shot at a roster spot, but more likely a practice squad designation. They will be listed in the TIDBITS section following the main body of the article.

However, the focus for the remainder of this will be on Beachum. There's a lot to like about Beachum. He's very smart and versatile enough to backup five spots. At 6'3", he's going to have to end up being above 300 lbs.(muscle weight), though, in order to do so on a regular basis.

But the coaches (should) know their personnel and will not ask them to stray too far from their own strengths, so don't expect Beachum to play the left side. He showed real promise last season on the right and they will be eager to see his progression.

Beachum is currently listed as the backup at two positions on the Steelers depth chart, he had experience in college at long snapper and believes he can backup the center position as well. But as was said earlier, he shows most promise on the right side as was evidenced last season against the Baltimore Ravens.

Beachum is decidedly better against the pass, but showed the ability to block the run also. He only gave up one sack against the Ravens, and that was in the fourth quarter. It was also one of the few instances when he showed his inexperience as he simply looked unaware of his protection assignment.

Otherwise, he more than held his own against Ravens linebackers Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger in the Steelers 23-20 win. He played every offensive snap, only giving up the one sack. Not too shabby.

As an example, in the fourth quarter, he took on Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, allowing lead blocker Will Johnson to create a hole for running back Isaac Redman that resulted in a 24-yard gain.

At one point, Beachum turns Ngata just enough to allow space for Redman. He then forces Ngata backwards, and Redman is gone. (Photos courtesy of Andrea Hangst of Pro Football Focus)

If this truly is a sign of things to come, then Beachum could be a real integral part of the Steelers offensive line and team, and the offensive line itself could once again be a team strength.

(Addendum: Steelers depth chart has since changed and Bell nor, for some reason, Gilbert are any longer mentioned.)

TIDBITS: The men who have a chance to stick with the team:

Joe Madsen - Center, 6'4" 310 lbs. -
In four years at West Virginia, Madsen started 38 straight games, except for two bowl games for which he was academically ineligible. Three-year starter. Only 25 reps of the 225-pound bench press at the NFL Combine, so he needs to improve his strength, but he does have quick lateral movement. -

Mike Golic, jr. - G/C, 6'4", 300 lbs. -
Listed among the best undrafted players, National Football Post says of him, "he may be a long shot, but his competiveness and toughness will serve him well in camp." At the Steelers minicamp last week, Golic played right tackle.

The Notre Dame product has pedigree on his side as both his father, most recently of ESPN's Mike & Mike fame, and his uncle, Bob Golic, played in the NFL. Therefore, he knows first hand that there will be competition.

"Anywhere you go, there’s going to be competition," said Golic. -

Nik Embernate - Guard, 6'4" 300 lbs.
Embernate, as If It Ain't Steel informed its readers, payed a pre-draft visit to the Steelers. He was so impressed with the South Side that he is quoted as saying, "I love this place." He now wants to be the one to make an impression. -

There was another quote from him, though, that caught our attention. No manufactured ado needed, just read what he said about playing football.

“If I hear a quarterback call [a run] play in the huddle,” Embernate said, “I've already got in my mind that I'm going to take that dude and slam him into the dirt, and as he's trying to get up, just not let him get up. Try to inflict a lot of pain on him.

“That's what this game is all about — not to the aspect where you want to hurt somebody, but you're going to try to knock somebody out. You've got to play physical.”

I'm sold.