After two straight seasons of equivalent wins and losses, it’s certainly no surprise that the front office of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been busier and more active than usual in their efforts to reshape a middling roster into a true competitor.
The past few months could be fairly described as a season of change amid the shifting fates of a franchise that had just been to the Super Bowl three times in the very recent past. It may well be that past success that has helped drag them down of late.
Of course, selecting late in the draft annually doesn’t help, nor do the big contracts going out to the players that helped you reach that success. But the true death knell has been an unwillingness to recognize when to let go.
The Steelers had hoped to hold together that championship core for a while longer, but the last two seasons have been the wake-up call necessary to introduce the wave of change that we’ve seen this offseason, designed to steer the organization back in the right direction.
One of the biggest changes that at least appears to be coming for the 2014 season, and something that the team has lacked for years, will be the ability to put the five best offensive linemen on the field at the same time.
The Steelers thought they were able to do that last year, but of course center Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the season just eight snaps into the first game.
Beyond that, it became readily apparent during the first quarter of the season that Mike Adams was not the team’s best option at left tackle. That situation had to be remedied, and he was pulled from the lineup after four games.
If Adams has his way, of course, he will factor into the starting lineup at one of the tackle positions by the time the preseason winds down to a close, though the right tackle spot may be his more realistic target.
What is clear though is that if he does find himself in the starting lineup for reasons other than injury, it will be because he’s shown himself to be the team’s best available option at the position. They’re not likely to make the same mistake twice after seeing what happened last year, so if he wins a job, he’ll have truly won it.
As it stands now, though, Adams is of secondary concern, because Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert are the two starting tackles.
Gilbert is entering his fourth season, having been the primary right tackle pretty much since the second game of his career. Though he’s never been great, he has more often than not been an adequate player who must stay healthy for a change.
Beachum, meanwhile, transitioned into the starting lineup last year, starting 11 of 16 games at left tackle and gradually growing into the role. Though he may be somewhat physically limited, he is an intelligent player with a chip on his shoulder. He is determined to prove that he can be the answer at left tackle, the last one that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will need before he retires.
The most exciting aspect of this edition of the starting offensive line, however, is in the interior, where Pouncey and David DeCastro will work extensively together for the first time. Both players are more than capable of performing at a Pro Bowl level, and they should only feed off one another. That all depends on the line remaining healthy, though, which hasn’t been easy in recent years.