Who Plays Left Tackle For Steelers If Marcus Gilbert Goes Down?

By Matthew Marczi

Anybody who is acquainted with the recent history of the Pittsburgh Steelers and their offensive line knows that there is a good chance that one of the starting linemen will miss time in 2013. When you consider that both players expected to be starting tackles this year missed significant time just last year, it raises a couple of questions and concerns.

Third year pro Marcus Gilbert is switching from the right side to the left side this year. In 2012, he only made it clean through three games. He was forced to leave the week one loss to the Denver Broncos early, and then he suffered what ultimately turned out to be a season-ending ankle injury in the week six loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Likewise, Mike Adams enters his second year with an injury history of his own. He started off early with an injury in the preseason, but did not miss time. He ultimately started the next six games following Gilbert’s injury at right tackle before suffering a season-ending injury of his own.

Fellow sophomore Kelvin Beachum was able to wrap up the season until getting bitten by the injury bug himself in the final game of the season.

The truth is that he performed above expectations for a seventh round draft pick, and, in all likelihood, should Adams go down this year, it will be Beachum entering the starting lineup.

With Max Starks gone, however, the depth at left tackle is wafer thin. Some speculated that Gilbert and Adams would compete for the spot, but Adams was the victim of a stabbing that may keep him out of the first week or more of training camp.

Who will play left tackle should Marcus Gilbert go down, and will it hinge on the situation? For example, I feel (and hope that it is safe to assume), given time to prepare, Mike Adams would slide over to start at left tackle and start there, with Beachum starting at right tackle.

What if it happens in-game, however? The team’s prior offensive line coach, Sean Kugler, was an advocate of keeping his men in a steady position, not wanting to jumble things around on the fly. Is Jack Bicknell, Jr. of the same mind?

Sometimes, of course, adjusting on the fly is unavoidable. When both Beachum and David DeCastro succumbed to injuries in the season finale, Ramon Foster was forced to move over to the right tackle spot, while Doug Legursky and John Malecki were asked to fill in the blanks at guard. After all, I do not believe there is a coherent argument for playing either Legursky or Malecki at tackle simply to avoid moving Foster mid-game.

But, as demonstrated in last year’s season finale, these critical in-game situations do occur. Do the Steelers trust Beachum enough to play some fill-in snaps at left tackle should Gilbert go down mid-game? He was a left tackle throughout college, and played there during the preseason, but his regular season experience has been entirely at right tackle. It is also not clear if he has received any reps at left tackle thus far this offseason.

If they do not trust Beachum enough to take those snaps, it is highly unlikely that they would trust Guy Whimper, assuming that he even makes the roster. So that would mean that they would have to move Adams over to left tackle.

Either way, it would be wise for the Steelers to get both Beachum and Adams plenty of quality reps over at the left side during training camp and the preseason. While both of them were left tackles in college, many left tackles end up as right tackles in the NFL, because the skill sets and obstacles faced are not necessarily congruous.

At least with some solid reps during this exhibition month, it would give the Steelers a couple of viable options to face an in-game injury at left tackle. As shown last year, Foster can always play right tackle if worse comes to worst, but there is no such contingency at left tackle, unless you include Matt Spaeth. Given the team’s recent history, this could be one of the more important questions to answer during the preseason.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • VaDave

    This is exactly my biggest concern going into this season. Not only does Gilbert have to play at a level he’s not shown much before, he’s got to get through a whole season intact, something he’s not done before. Here’s hoping we can find a camp cut somewhere that can fill in.

  • TJimmy

    Outside of Beachum the whole line is thin as a rail

  • steeltown

    IMO…Mike Adams… Adams would slide over to LT and either Beachum or Foster kicks out to play RT

  • woundedvet

    Beachum, until Adams learns to passblock. Odds are Adams will improve enough in passblocking to be able to play a tackle position in the pros. Hopefully during this preseason. Until Adams shows it though, must go with your best pass blocker. Cant allow Ben to get killed just because of trying to force the issue just because spent a higher draft pick on Adams.

  • woundedvet

    Adams has the advantage of only having to prepare to play offesive tackle, vs Beachum has had to learn both guard spots plus center in addition to tackle. Both had to learn right tackle, so thats one new position for Adams, but 4 new positions for Beachum. Adams missed some time recovering from knife, but Beachum missed time having to learn center.

  • Shea Fahr

    I agree with Matt. I also hope the Long kid can push Whimper off the Roster.

  • gene mann

    I totaaly agree This spot and depth at ILB is a major concern and will think they be on the lookout for cuts from other teams at both Positions.
    Long is the guy i like to see what he does in Camp since he a Natural LT.
    But I think Adams or Beachum would be the next man up. I don’t want to see whimper at all.

  • dgh57

    I know the odds don’t favor this but I would like to see Joe Long make the roster and backup Gilbert so Adams can stay at RT and thus Foster can stay at LG. I would love to see us avoid the musical chair thing we endured last year because a o-line can’t gel when they’re moving around a lot.

  • steeltown

    I agree in that I hope Joe Long makes the Team, but even under those circumstances I think Adams shifts over to cover LT and then either Beachum or Joe Long would cover the right side

  • Brendon Glad

    That dude RIGHT THERE better bring it this year. I’m going to say this right now…if the Steelers do not make the playoffs in 2013…then my money says (wait, I better not post about my $ saying anything, lmao), rephrase: my gut says that it will be primarily on Gilbert.
    I did not like the Steelers letting Starks walk without even a cursory offer, after I thought: A) He deserved more respect than that B) He played as well as I’ve ever seen him play last year. C) Gilbert was awful last year (although at RT)
    So BRENDON GLAD will be watching Mr. Gilbert very closely. He infuriated me last year by severely/significantly injuring 3 different starters and then himself by being completely overmatched at RT. He looked decent at LT back when he was doing that. So hopefully, like Starks did, he will become a far better LT than he was a RT.

  • joed32

    Beachum was passable at RT last year when hardly anyone expected him to be but he wasn’t better than Adams at pass blocking.

  • dgh57

    Well that depends on how J. Long performs this preseason and I hope he gets plenty of chances at LT. This is one guy that really needs to come through for us! That, or Gilbert needs to pull a Max Starks on us and play every snap! Fat chance, huh?

  • steeltown

    Beachum looked awful at LT during last years training camp/preseason

  • Douglas Andrews

    Would also like to see one of the younger O lineman move ahead of Whimper early in camp. Hope Whimper is just a camp body. His track record is awful

  • Jeff Eger

    Is Marcus Gilbert originally fro Aliquippa ,Pa?My hometown where I grew up.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I do not believe it’s accurate to say that Beachum is a better pass blocker than Adams. More of Adams’ pressures allowed ended up in sacks, but Beachum gave up a higher percentage of pressure per snap in pass protection.

  • charles

    These stats have to have context or they are meaningless, for offensive line home or away maybe the best context, third down pressures or third down sacks allowed might be next. Was it a blitz or third and a mile?

  • charles

    You speak the truth. Sure wish Starks and FO could have agreed on something. Just Starks longevity was worth something given the Olines recent history. If you don’t protect Ben’s blindside the Steelers ain’t goin nowhere. We need the best pass blocker at left tackle period.

  • charles

    Damn good post.

  • Richard Cetrone

    Huge mistake letting Max Starks go. This is going to be a problem all season for the Steelers. Gilbert gets man handled constantly even when he is healthy, Adams is unproven, Beachum is average at best and Wimper was a waste of a signing.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Adams only had two “bad” games in pass protection (against the Giants and the Ravens), but those games were really bad and impacted his overall evaluation. He gave up four of his seven sacks, two of his three hits, and 6 of his 16 hurries in those two games alone. He also gave up two sacks, a hit, and two hurries in the two games that he was forced to come off the bench cold (Denver week one and Tennessee week 6). In his other four starts, he gave up one sack, no hits, and 8 hurries. Beachum gave up at least 4 pressures in three of his five starts, twice 5 pressures.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Gilbert only gave up three hits and four hurries in five games, with no sacks. That’s hardly what I would describe as “awful” and “completely overmatched”. Starks gave up 53 pressures (3 sacks, 8 hits) last year.

  • charles

    Thanks for the very good reply. Obviously Adams game against the Ravens has great implications as does coming in to the game cold. Truth be told, I hadn’t remembered how bad that game against the Cravens was. Thankfully, blocking technique is a coachable attribute and hopefully Adams learns well. If he goes to bed early and gets good sleep I think he will be just fine. (The last sentence is only a feeble attempt at seeing the lighter side…)

  • Brendon Glad

    I find those numbers VERY hard to believe. But I’ll defer to you, because I’m not going to dig for it. One question though. Do they count it in the stats when a player gets bull-rushed and put on skates so thoroughly that he falls into 3 linemen or TE’s one or 2 spots away and causes noticeable (and twice severe) injury? And then gets beaten so badly that his own leg buckles and he misses the rest of the season? in FIVE games? To me that’s kind of a key tenet in the definition of “thoroughly overmatched”
    And for the record: the 3 players injured were: Johnson, DeCastro, and Pouncey. All rolled-up by Gilbert on bull-rushes…no?

  • Tom oneal

    Worst OL in Steeler history.

  • Wesley Hawkins

    Ben can’t allow Ben to get killed by continually holding onto the football for to long.

  • Wesley Hawkins

    Two of the sacks that Adams gave up against the Ravens were the result of Ben applying the death grip on the football.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Now that’s absolutely false. In fact you get the I’m a moron award for that baseless post.

    Gilbert is a concern and he has injured our other lineman a few times while he was being imploded himself. I’m hoping he puts in the work as the Steelers obviously see something in him.

    I have complete faith in Pouncey, Decastro Foster and Adams continuing to progress with experience.