When Kelvin Beachum took over the Pittsburgh Steelers starting left tackle job from Mike Adams following the loss in London to the Minnesota Vikings, I had my doubts as to whether or not he would be able to handle the position. Now, with two games remaining in the regular season, Beachum has a chance to possibly lock down the position for the foreseeable future.
Outside of the games against the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots, Beachum has been solid in pass protection. In fact, in the last five games that he's started, the SMU product has allowed just one sack, two hits and four hurries in 182 pass blocking opportunities. If you subscribe to the pass blocking efficiency stat that Pro Football Focus developed, those last five starts equate to a 97% PBE number. To put that number into perspective, Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas has a 96.6% PBE for the season.
On Sunday, Beachum will see quite a bit of Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who predominantly lines up on the right side of the defense. While Matthews has struggled a bit since coming back from a broken thumb, he's still considered one of the better pass rushing 3-4 outside linebackers in the league. Should Beachum wind up keeping him away from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, it will be quite a statement for the former seventh-round draft pick.
At barely 6'3", Beachum doesn't have the traditional height of a starting left tackle, but thanks to his unique build that includes a short torso and long legs, he's able to function well out in space. Beachum played left tackle all four years in college, so it's not like the position is new to him. He has, however, finally adjusted to the speed of the game and improved not only his sets, but his punching ability in addition. He showed neither of those two attributes during the few snaps he received at left tackle during the preseason games as a rookie. In fact, he didn't even look like he would make the 53 man roster out of training camp based on his play during the preseason.
Beachum is still not without his warts, however, as his run blocking needs improvement. However, being the smart and dedicated player that he is, I suspect that's an area that he can make strides in. Should the Steelers offense finally get around to running the outside zone next season, he should excel in it.
Keep a close eye on Beachum against the Packers as I am sure he knows the spot can be his permanently if he plays like he has the last several weeks. In my opinion, it's his lose right now.
In case you missed it, check out the break down of Beachum's play last Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.