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.