By Matthew Marczi
Last week, for some reason, I felt that Kelvin Beachum was starting to settle in at left tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it turns out that probably had a lot to do with the soft Baltimore Ravens defense. He struggled a fair bit last week going up against the Oakland Raiders, particularly when facing defensive end Lamarr Houston, who was excellent against the run and accounted for more than half a dozen pressures. After moving to guard, however, it did not get any better.
Take this running play, for instance, early in the first quarter, on which Houston drops Le’Veon Bell for a loss.
The play is designed to go through the B Gap on the left side between Beachum and Ramon Foster, but that hole gets clogged up. For several reasons, Bell is forced to bounce the run outside. One of those reasons is Houston getting underneath Beachum’s pads and cutting inside. However, as soon as Houston sees Bell cut the run outside, he easily gets away from Beachum and brings the back down for a loss of three.
Pass protection, however, was the bigger issue for Beachum on the day than his run blocking, by far, as the majority of Oakland’s pressure came from the left side, as was the case on Houston’s sack.
The Steelers just entered their two-minute offense at the end of the first half, hoping to close the gap a bit before halftime, but this play nearly ended that hope prematurely. Houston aligned himself well outside in what would be considered a 9-tech if there were a tight end to that side of the field. Beachum let him get inside his pads and was able to turn himself and get the angle to the quarterback.
Because pressure also came from inside, Ben Roethlisberger had nowhere to go, and Houston brought him down for a loss of nine. The Steelers were forced to punt, but they got an opportunity to miss a field goal at the end of the half after Cortez Allen got the ball back on an interception.
After Beachum was moved to guard due to the injury to David DeCastro, it did not get any better.
The defensive tackle, admittedly, uses an illegal tactic here—a head slap—which immediately gets Beachum off balance, and he ends up surrendering a hit on an intercepted pass. Another pressure allowed helped end a drive in the fourth quarter when the Steelers were running out of time.
This is admittedly a chaotic play. The center has to pull in order to pick up an edge blitz, Bell has to pick up a blitz in the middle of the field, and the Raiders run a stunt. It does not help that Cody Wallace stays out rather than coming in to help, but Beachum’s failure to pick up the stunt is what leads to the initial pressure, which forces the quarterback to tuck and scramble before he is ultimately sacked.
Beachum would later give up another sack from an interior pass rusher. Overall, this was clearly not one of Beachum’s prettiest games. He struggles at guard, I believe, because he lacks strength. On a number of plays after he was forced to slide over, Beachum gave up a lot of ground, being walked back in the pocket by the stronger defensive tackles. The fact that he was not anticipating the move did not help either, of course. Regardless, Beachum will have to have more to offer than this against the New England Patriots today.