Steelers Need Answers To The Questions At Offensive Tackle This Season

The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering a season with a lot of questions, as everybody who follows the team knows. Sometimes the most perplexing questions are the ones that you may already have the answer to, but are unsure. That is where the Steelers are when it comes to their offensive line, or more specifically, their three offensive tackles.

The team finds itself with three young tackles in Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, and Kelvin Beachum, all of whom at times have appeared to be able to perform at a quality level at one time or another. But this is the critical season in which the Steelers must find some answers about these players—in fact, answers may be inevitable.

There are many things that we don’t know about these three players that we need to know. Can Beachum grow into a legitimate left tackle? If healthy, is Gilbert a capable, sufficient answer at right tackle? Can Adams fix his pass protection technique and mature into the player he was drafted to be?

The Steelers brought in Mike Munchak this season to coach the offensive line, which was the biggest move that they made this offseason. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better person to coach your offensive line than Munchak.

But he’s not a miracle worker either. What he should be able to provide is all the tools and the appropriate playing field for these three tackles to demonstrate what they’re truly capable of—whatever that might be. Ben Roethlisberger’s health depends on it, unless the Steelers somehow end up drafting a tackle in the first round.

Beachum has all the intangibles you could want in a player. He’s intelligent in addition to being football smart, and he pairs that with a good motor, work ethic, and one of Willie Colon’s “big ass” shoulder chips for good measure, despite his friendly demeanor.

But is he a franchise left tackle? Was the second half of last season deceiving, simply a byproduct of Roethlisberger getting the ball out faster? He struggled significantly in his first few starts at left tackle.

Will he regress to the mean, and will that mean be enough to keep his job? The Steelers need to know if he is the left tackle or not, because they seemingly already have three right tackles.

Gilbert in particular needs to solidify his standing because he’s entering the last year of his contract. He played hurt some last season, which affected his performance. Can he stay healthy, or perform up to expectations while playing hurt? And when he does play, can he be a quality starter?

Or will Adams be the new right tackle? He is the younger player with greater up side and an extra year left on his contract. But he has so much work to do from a technique standpoint in pass protection.

There are so many uncertainties surrounding the Steelers’ current trio of offensive tackles that it wouldn’t surprise me if they do draft a tackle in the first round if one of the top prospects falls to them at 15, which is not impossible in this draft.

They may have invested two high picks in the position recently, but the past is the past. If you don’t have your answers at the position, then you need to keep plugging away at it until you solve the riddle.

Perhaps the trio will have one more season to prove to the organization who they truly are and what Munchak can get out of them, but either way, this is the critical season for the tackle position. The answers provided this season will determine the direction the organization takes from here on out.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Callentown

    From what I could tell, Haley did a nice job of changing his protections and play calls to help Ben get the ball out faster and aid the OLine.

    Because of this, it’s hard to tell how good these players are, especially Beachum.

    Would Haley use different plays with a stronger pair of tackles? Wouldn’t we want our OC to have the ability to call the plays he wants to use vs being trapped into calling the most WR screens of any team (I believe this is the case)?

  • dgh57

    Gilbert won’t be doing himself any favors by failing the conditioning drills this preseason under Munchak’s watch. He is my least favorite OL and see him playing out his last year of his contract and moving on. Adams might be the answer at RT we’ll just have to wait and see what Munchak can do with him. I don’t see Beachum as the long term answer at LT so it won’t surprise me none to see maybe a guy like Lewan drafted in the 1st rd.(depending on how they view his off field situation he finds himself in)


    Munchak’s task of improving this line is like introducing your girlfriend to your wife…………. although it may go better than expected, there are some possible pitfalls.

  • steeltown

    I somewhat agree, although it remains to be seen. I get the feeling if Adams takes the next step he could make Gilbert expendable after this season. Its not as if Gilbert has shown to be a stellar RT so barring a dominate ’14 season on the right side the FO wont be in a hurry to re-sign him. If Adams can improve his pass protection he could possibly be our RT, he’s 2yrs younger than Gilbert and has 2yrs left on his rookie contract.
    Beachum is the ultimate overachiever and should in all likelihood be our starting LT this season, but I bet they still draft one at some point.

  • Paddy

    So true

  • cencalsteeler

    Other than Wallace, Pouncey and Velasco (if retained), Munchak will realize quickly how the rest of the group needs to add some emotion to their game! If he can incorporate that asset along with his fundamental teachings, this line may improve tremendously before our eyes! That’s why so many of us love Wallace. Steeler nation has been starving for some aggressiveness with our lineman and our hope lies with Mike Munchak and his teachings!

  • StarSpangledSteeler


  • dgh57

    It depends on how they view Lewan’s off field problem and Beachum’s versatility. A lot of teams would value a guy with versatility like Beachum’s a great deal that can play anywhere across the line including TE in a pinch. To me that’s where Beachum best fits in.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I have to imagine Munch has already done some extensive film work on our three musketeers. And possibly even some type of off season training/evaluations. We as fans don’t know the results, but the front office does.

    Based on their pre-draft visits, it seems as though the Steelers coaches are not “looking” for a tackle in the first 3 rounds. That would lead me to believe Munch thinks he can work with what we’ve got.

    (Again that is pure speculation, but it is based on the only evidence we have.)

    The Steelers recent tendency has been to throw the new assistant coaches a bone. Bring in Lake, throw him a draft pick (Shamarko). Bring in Mann, throw him a draft pick (Wheaton). Bring in Kuglar, throw him a draft pick (Gilbert).

    I have to think Munchak gets a shot at a mid round developmental pick at LT.

  • steeltown

    If we could find a true stud at LT and have Beachum be the ultimate utility knife, that would be ideal, especially considering the injuries that plague our OLine annually

  • Bill Sechrengost

    All I know is that we cannot have both Gilbert and Adams fail and they wind up having to draft more players to replace them. We’ve spent enough on high draft picks to supply the line and it would be a shame to have to use more. We have way too many needs at so many positions to have to draft an OL high this year.

  • NW86

    The Steelers won’t draft an OT at 1.15. The only one of the “big 3” that could fall that far is Lewan, due to his legal trouble, and for that very reason, I don’t think they would mess with him there. Besides, why draft a position where you “might” have a need when you could draft a position where you “know” you have a need.

    The title of the article is right – they have this season to figure out if at least 2 of these 3 guys are the answer at the tackle spots, and if not, they will have to be agressive in either free agency or the draft to fill the hole.

  • John

    I think we have the answers already. It is just that people do not like them and with a new O-line coach are hoping they change. We can only hope. Beachum is your best tackle. Sorry. Gilbert will play right. Sorry again. Adams is mediocre and can help out. That’s it. As for franchise tackles, these guys get hurt so much let’s not worry about that. Let’s find five guys that can play together well. Pouncey looked like a franchise center and see how that went last year. If we ever draft high enough and someone looks like Anthony Munoz then take him. Otherwise let’s play.

  • treeher

    Can’t teach a mean streak, you either have it or you don’t. Munch’s value will be in maximizing the talent they have in the way that they are rather than trying to create some sort of frankenstein lineman.

  • srdan

    Amen. Same for the defensive side. Williams and Cam were fiery. Seems like Mitchel and Shamarko will add some as well.

  • srdan

    I’m not sure you teach it, rather than bring it out. Everyone has a mean streak. Think about it, if someone messes with your mom, how do you react? I think the good coaches can play that up in players that need to bring more of it, and cut some back on guys that go over board with it.

  • srdan

    I like your observation. And the fact that you acknoledge that we can’t read into crap about the draft regarding olinemen, or any other position.

  • treeher

    If it’s not natural to you, you can’t sustain it. Good coach elicits the talent in the best way that is natural to the athlete. Think Jack Lambert vs. Jack Ham.

  • srdan

    We’re going to have to disagree here. I think a mean streak is natural to most humans, especiallyones that play in the NFL. A good coach or situation can bring it out or harness it if necessary. I am not saying that you can turn heath miller into Suh, but you can expcect players to play with more emotion.

  • Brendon Glad

    Gilbert does zero for me, but he did play slightly better than I thought he would last season. Adams appears to be a better RT than LT…hopefully Beachum continues improving at LT. Out of all the positions on the line, it would seem that LT would be the 5th choice for what he would be best suited for, yet he played FAR above what I expected there. So what does that mean? That if we play Beachum at LT we will get a solid starter but be missing out on a Pro-Bowler if he were a guard? Or that he actually is suited perfectly well to be a Pro-Bowl LT too? Or neither. I’m not sure. Anyone have an opinion on that?

  • steeltown

    I think confidence can go a long way in that regard

  • treeher

    Emotion, yes. Meaning that some play with emotion of “mean streak” and some others have different emotions, such as competitiveness, so we can agree on that.

  • steeltown

    I just think he has the tenacity and the athleticism to play the position and he played LT for 4yrs in college. Will he ever be a Pro Bowl LT, I sort of doubt it, but neither was Max Starks and he was a damn fine player for us

  • srdan

    usually in contract years players do not show up out of shape. That is like going to work late on the day they are making decisions on who to lay off

  • Brendon Glad

    He sure impressed the heck out of me…as he has in pretty much every single situation he has encountered other than his rookie Preseason. Definitely will be a long-time solid starter somewhere. And nice shout-out to max Starks. I’ve never changed my opinion more about a Steelers player. I used to hate his game when he was a RT…and then for the first few games at LT. But by the end of his career in Pittsburgh, I liked him a lot.

  • Brendon Glad

    Excellent analogy. I’m going to steal that one from you and use it in football conversations with my friends from here forward. 🙂

  • Brendon Glad

    Yeah, it makes one wonder. AB’s tremendous ability with the ball in his hands one-on-one with a defender says that the WR “screen/look-in-route” should always be in the arsenal. But the sheer number of them makes a guy wonder. (And by the way….it works way better on your own 35 then it does in the red-zone, for obvious reasons).

  • Brendon Glad

    I’m excited about munchak as well. I have truly thought that “below the standard” OL coaching was the #1 reason for the poor OL play….not Ben’s decision making, nor the guys we have drafted. And it was funny…last year I was ABSOLUTELY AT A LOSS for the perplexing but surprisingly beautiful improvement in the OL from about game 8 forward. I posted on this board multiple times that I hadn’t cursed at my tv at them for several weeks straight…and I was CONFUSED! Then, leave it to steelersdepot to report that Bicknell had basically been relieved of his duties at midseason, and the young offensive assistant (Shawn Sher___?, ) had taken over the duties. Which to me, made me believe my instinct even more. So I think munchak will be a big plus.

  • dgh57

    That’s true but we’re talking about Gilbert here. Gilbert needs to work like he’s in a contract year every year because he’s not a lock to be a starter from here on out. We’ll see.

  • I don’t see any really good left tackles outside of the top two. They may have to band aid the position and hope Beachum is at the worst competent.

  • charles

    Munchak’s demeanor will help Adams and Gilbert. Beachum, Pouncey and Decastro are either good enough or are at a pro bowl level. Munchak was the best Oline move that we made and it was a damn good one. A commenter above said that Bricknell was basically relieved of duty at game 8, if so we have Munchak backed up alresdy.

  • PA2AK

    i agree. though, I will give DeCastro some credit here. He isn’t a guy that we are going to ever see with a ‘mean streak’, but I don’t see that as a negative with him. He’s a worker and plays with some smarts. Once he shook the friendly fire ordeal…DeCastro showed up fairly consistently pushing the pile. Plenty of times being the only one doing so. He’s going to be solid…whether he plays with fire or just goes about his business like Heath.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Honestly I think we pretty much know what we have. All teams have to worry about injuries so I do not even put that into the equation.

  • afrazier9

    I know some people want agree but i think we need to draft a good tackle if one falls to us, but if it is not one of the top three then get a player that will be an a mediate stater on the defense or offense we cant keep wasting first round picks man we need a certified starter this year

  • Randy Neff

    The Steelers doing their homework on Lewan’s character leads me to believe that they’re not sold on any of their possible LT’s. Beachum would fill the swing man better than anyone else on the roster. If Beachum does indeed start, then either Gilbert or Adams roster spot is in jeopardy. RT only backups don’t last long in the league.

  • RMSteeler

    Has Munchak been a line coach since the latest CBA that made OTA’s into flag football with no pads? Hopefully, with his experience, he can work some magic with technique training during this period. Particularly with Adams. I think the scrimmages with the Bills this year will make it better to teach and adjust the OL as well as the other groups. Will be interesting to see what effect this has on depth chart. Especially to see if the 2nd year OL and DL players make progress.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    A lot of good points being made, but what we need is for our ol to blow people off the ball in short yardage and red zone run situations . W e too often settle for field goals because we are not physically able to move people . We also end up punting from just outside our fg range because we can’t convert a 3rd and 1, or2.

  • Thank you sir, lol