Is Kelvin Beachum The Next Hines Ward?

By Michael K. Reynolds

In 1998, using the second of their two third round draft picks, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected one of the greatest receivers in their gloried history. He was part receiver, part running back, with a dash of quarterback sprinkled in for good measure.

He was Hines Ward, a tough as gristle player from the University of Georgia and he came into the NFL ready to play. Even if the Steelers weren’t ready to give him that chance.

Apparently he was too slow. Too unorthodox. And he was a player the Steelers thought they needed to upgrade.

Which is why in 1999 the organization used their number one pick on Troy Edwards, the thirteenth player selected overall in the draft. He would turn out to be, by Coach Bill Cowher‘s own admission, one of their biggest draft blunders.

This was the case as well with Malcolm Johnson, another receiver they drafted in the fifth round that year.

And although Hines Ward made every catch that was thrown to him and excelled at special teams the Pittsburgh brass remained desperate to find a more explosive pair of hands.

So with the eighth overall pick in the 2000 draft, they selected Plaxico Burress, high on talent and low on maturity. For good measure they threw in UCLA standout pass catcher Danny Farmer in the fourth round, whose game never translated to the pros.

Hines was left to seethe on the bench as both Edwards and Burress took his starting job, the one by all fair measurements he had already earned.

But the stubborn Bulldog refused to go away, slow feet and all, and long after Edwards and Burress and Johnson and Farmer exited the team for other pastures, Hines Ward continued to amaze. He would go on to break just about every important receiving record for the Steelers and in the process became one of the team’s all-time fan favorites.

Which brings us to Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum. He joined the Black and Gold as the FOURTH of four seventh round draft picks last year. Just a few picks shy of Mr. Irrelevant status.

In his rookie season, he was called into action when starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert and his backup Mike Adams went down. Fans covered their eyes and feared the worst. But, Beachum excelled.

This off-season he was taught EVERY position on the offensive line, and in all cases he exceeded expectations.

When high-pedigree left tackle Mike Adams faltered in the starting role, Beachum came in and…although not perfect in his play, he proved up to the task and continues to show improvement every week. In fact, a reasonable argument could be made that he saved the Steelers season.

Still, he hears the whispers. His position is temporary. For he’s too short. Too weak. Arms not long enough.

But as Steelers fans continue to sift through the college ranks in search of Pittsburgh’s next number one draft pick at left tackle, don’t fault Beachum if he continues to focus on getting better. And stronger. And more experienced.

Because by all accounts, he is a true student of the game, and passionate about making the most out of this opportunity.

Is he too weak at the running game to keep his position next year? Perhaps. And maybe the Steelers will bring in a higher-pedigree player to fill the role through the draft or free agency.

Then again. Maybe the Steelers already have their left tackle of the future. Raw, but a promising work in process.

Think it’s not possible? Just ask Hines Ward.

Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series. MichaelKReynolds.com
  • JAMESH

    Zone-Blocking for $400, Alex.

  • steeltown

    It is quite amazing what Beachum has done. Yes he’s given up some sacks no doubt about it and he has had a few less than stellar games, but overall he has been holding down that oh-so-important LT position. Let us not forget he was a 4yr starter in college at LT, but really at his size its amazing he’s been able to do what he has in the pros

  • Chad H

    I like this dude but too soon to compare anyone to the great Steeler Hines Ward.
    I do see a comparison in hard work, smarts and determination. A player like Hines reminds me why I’m a Steelers fan and you can add Kiesel there as well. Sad day once Kiesel is gone as well.

  • Luke Shabro

    I don’t care if he doesn’t turn into the LT for the next 8 years. I love the kid’s hard work, determination, team-first attitude and football IQ. He’s Trai Essex 3.0. I could be wrong because I’ve missed a few games while traveling but I haven’t seen him get a lot of penalties. It’s kind of amazing how sometimes Colbert just gets these diamonds in the rough. There was some receiver from Central Michigan in the 6th round. I seem to remember that guy doing ok….

  • SteelersDepot

    He’s comparing the situations, or did you miss that?

  • steeltown

    Will miss ‘The Beard’…as much as I’ll miss Polamalu when he is done

  • Berlusconi

    Good comparison. However, I don’t see that he shows improvement every week. He already had a very good game against the Jets and was good against the Ravens. But he also had his lows.
    This is not a steady improvement, at least not in the short term like you stated it, as the improvement being “every week”.

  • Berlusconi

    Keisel is amazing. The drop-off to Ziggy is quite big in my opinion. I hope some of the practice squad guys will be able to fill his shoes.

  • Bob Loblaw

    The line as a unit has been much improved on penalties this year. Though some of that is just the absence of Colon.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Great write up Mike! I am with you here that we do not know but he is gritty and grit gets you a long ways in this game. For all of us we hope he continues to grow!

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I see Keisel’s last days. He just isn’t what he was. Not sure if Ziggy has what it takes to take over there next year? That will be interesting to see what happens next year.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    The level of talent he plays against will change plus not everyone has a good game every game out . I feel you are being too picky IMO on what was said. He has improved and that is evident.

  • srdan

    I think as a fan it’s hard to tell if a player is improving or not. We see the game once, maybe a few of us watch a re-run. If you give up 2 sacks to J. Peppers and 0 to the jets de. Does that mean you played better vs the jets? I think the stats are not the only tell tale sign for lineman, o or d.

    You may watch tape, I am saying I don’t have the knowhow to gauge his improvement.

  • CW

    I don’t know if this article will turn out to be a prophetic post, but any fan of the game has got to like Beachum’s heart and drive for the game even if he doesn’t turn out to be a permanent starter at any position.

  • steeltown

    The fact that he had decent games against the NYJ and Baltimore is encouraging being that those are two of the toughest Teams in regards in defensive fronts and pressuring the QB

  • srdan

    He is serviceable. At this point in 86s career, he was that as well. Hines continued to grow into a hall of famer. I see the comparison, and like everyone else on this forum, i hope he continues the growth.

    I also think that he is better vs the smaller faster DE or 3-4 olbs. I expect another big game out of him vs Elvis and suggs. He has problems with the Peppers, JPP, aldon smiths of the world. But who doesn’t?

  • Berlusconi

    I get your point and i totally agree. Like you, I am not in the position to give a definite judgement about his play.

  • Chad H

    If you are comparing the fact that we are always trying to replace him then yes. Sorry to piss you off.

  • Berlusconi

    Maybe I am too picky, but technically I am sure that no player has every improved on a weekly basis. I should have kept my comment to myself.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Lets not forget Kemoeatu.

  • colingrant

    Sometimes you have to go beyond the football field to know what you have. When the Steelers drafted Beachum and I read his bio, there were many things that jumped out at me. First and foremost, he was a high achiever. High achievers over achieve or reach there maximum potential in most things they do. On the field, he started all 52 games during his 4 years. Off the field, he earned a masters degree during his red-shirt senior year and multiple conference academic all-american awards. But it was his appointments that caught me eye.

    1) Student representative to the SMU Board of Trustees
    2) Sat on SMU president R. Gerald Turner’s Commission on Substance Abuse
    3) Member of Student Affairs Leadership Council
    4) SMU Athletic Council and the Apple Committee
    5) Presented the Commencement address to fellow 2012 graduates of Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development

    These are the credentials you get from players who played at the service academies. Can’t measure this stuff at the NFL combine. When teams are constructed in any facet of life, people like him make a difference, one way or another. The Steelers are extremely fortunate to have him.

  • Chris Ranieri

    DGD

  • mlc43

    Don’t worry about it, SD gets snippy all the time. Just ignore him.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Well stated…there are some minor similarities to Ward. I agree 100% that Beachum excels vs the smaller, quicker guys opposed to the stud DEs in the league.

    Sure…we have Clowney and Barr coming out this year, but the top pass rushing guys are now coming in smaller pkgs it seems…a lot of guys under 6’3.

  • AndyR34

    I think you are correct, but…don’t you know that most posters must use hyperbole in place of real facts. I don’t think MRK meant to do that and I do think we can agree with his final statement, “Raw, but a promising work in progress.”

  • Tom

    Probably not.
    I don’t think his hands are as good…. or his speed good enough to get open.

  • Kysteeler

    You bring up an interesting comparison, and there does come that point in time when you realize the “sexy girl” isn’t the one you’re going to marry. I like Beachum, and lets also not forget that this is his first season as starter. Whos to say he can’t grow into something more than a swing guy.

  • Xclewsive

    Kelvin Beachum is a serviceable player and has shown nothing to the point were he could ever be considered dominant. The Steelers really need to invest in a legit LT or at least learn how to mold one. The Steelers have taken 2 LTs and for some strange reason both regressed considerably. Beachum is a the underdog you root for, but know he doesn’t have the talent to last long.

  • r4kolb

    Dave as someone who has such a great bog you really need to think before you speak. Sometimes you really come off as a jerk. Sorry you are so much smarter then us peon’s. We bow to your greatness Dave all high and mighty.

  • Myster E

    Yes but can he dance?

  • Spencer Krick

    Nobody could quite put his hands on the other player’s face as well as Kemoeatu.

  • Eric

    Thanks for saying that. I have noticed the same thing, but thought it was just me.

  • http://www.michaelkreynolds.com/ Michael K. Reynolds

    I appreciate the encouragement Shannon. I believe Beachum’s attitude has most of us rooting for him.

  • http://www.michaelkreynolds.com/ Michael K. Reynolds

    Colin…that’s a first class addition to the article! Very well noted and spot on.

  • Eric

    I have been a vocal proponent of the “Must Draft a Left Tackle in Round 1″ campaign, but as the season goes on and Kelvin plays well, I am inclined to back off from that position. There are certainly other things we could do with our #1 pick. CB comes to mind, but I am not impressed with any of the projected Round 1 selections at CB. I am also hoping to draft later in round 1 than sooner.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Suck it up dude and put your big boy pants on!

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if you feel the urge to express it this is where you can. We are all Steeler fans here.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Although it seemed logical a month ago, but I’ve been a vocal proponent against that if PIT is picking top 10.

    Why? If you look into the last 3 or 4 drafts…Kalil is one of the few, if not the only OT picked high in the 1st round actually playing LT…most of them are playing RT if they’re playing and that’s where many scouts think Lewan, Matthews, et al are heading for RT…at least to start.