By Jeremy Hritz
The expectations weren’t high when the Steelers drafted Kelvin Beachum in the seventh round in the 2012 NFL Draft. Upon being selected, he was praised for his impeccable character, but was considered at best a potential practice squad player, not one that would make such an impression that he would end up starting three games in his rookie season. But that is exactly what Beachum did, and now, entering year two, he is expected to be the Steelers plug and play lineman, even at center. Beachum’s play was solid enough during his first season that prior to Ramon Foster being resigned, he was being projected as his successor. Consequently, it appears that the return on investment on Beachum has the chance to be great.
The early criticism of Beachum was that he lacked the physicality in the running game, and he was even described as “soft” in his NFL.com draft profile. However, he was credited with being quick and playing with a high motor, something that caught the attention of the Steelers. However, in the preseason, Beachum’s lack of strength was evident, and he was guilty of multiple holding penalties. Despite his rocky beginning, he improved enough to impress his coaches to start multiple games near the conclusion of the season, improvement that can be attributed to Beachum’s perseverance and work ethic.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported back in January that Beachum’s late season improvement instilled confidence in the Steelers organization. Consequently, Bouchette prognosticated that Foster would not be signed and that Beachum would assume one of the starting guard positions. He said, “The Steelers want to move on [from Foster], and they believe they have the right man to replace him. [Beachum] started the last five games and did a nice job. It helped convince them he can start at guard.” While Bouchette was incorrect in his prediction, his reporting is consistently credible and accurate, and the buzz within the organization more than likely influenced his call.
But despite not entering training camp as a starter, Beachum’s offseason has been busy.
First, he was getting reps at center in preparation to serve as Maurkice Pouncey’s backup in the event of his injury, though he struggled to master the snap. Then, it was reported that he was filling in at right tackle after starter Mike Adams was stabbed multiple times in the stomach. Pretty solid work for a 248th overall selection.
To successfully hit on a seventh round pick would be a big win for the Steelers, and his ceiling appears to be high enough that he can develop into quality player.
This much is certain, if a starter on the offensive line is lost to injury, the Steelers can have some confidence in Beachum stepping in. Whether or not this will be the role he plays throughout his career has yet to be determined.