While third-year Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum has about a year’s worth of starting experience combined between his first two seasons, he enters this year, for the first time in his career, as a starter from the beginning of the season.
Previously seen as the jack-of-all-trades of the offensive line group, Beachum has now had the opportunity to focus his energies exclusively on his duties at the left tackle position. To boot, he has Mike Munchak as his new offensive coordinator to help further his development.
Last Saturday was the first opportunity for Beachum to demonstrate what he’s picked up since becoming a starter against the New York Giants in the preseason opener. Like most of the rest of the offensive line, he helped get the ball rolling right along in the running game.
Some of Beachum’s finest attributes were on display on the Steelers’ first offensive snap of the game, which was a nine-yard carry by Le’Veon Bell on the right side of the formation. Beachum got a strong push off the line to get into Jason Pierre-Paul’s chest.
But it’s his combination of awareness and persistence that makes this play noteworthy. He kept his eyes on both the defensive end and the running back, and as he saw Bell freeing himself from the pile of bodies, he made sure to get in front of Pierre-Paul and keep himself between the former All-Pro and the play.
On second and one, the very next play, with two tight ends to his right, Beachum chipped the defensive tackle before advancing to the second level, sticking to linebacker Devon Kennard and helping to create an alley for Bell to run through largely unimpeded until well in advance of the first-down marker. There were strong performances in the running game early on all over the lineup for the Steelers, in fact.
In somewhat of a surprise, Beachum’s run blocking, which had been somewhat of a liability, showed up better on tape in this first preseason game then did his pass protection. Of course, the starting offensive line was only in the game for 14 snaps, divided evenly between run and pass, so the sample size was small.
It’s also worth pointing out that Beachum was lined up across from a former All-Pro pass rusher who is now seemingly healthy again. That no doubt has much to do with what we see on this play above, in which Pierre-Paul was able to get his freakishly long arms onto Beachum’s shoulders and rip him down for an easy path to the quarterback that got Bruce Gradkowski planted.
A bit later on the same drive, Pierre-Paul managed to get the best of Beachum again, despite the left tackle’s quick jump and strong back pedal, though Beachum likely gave some ground knowing the play would be a screen to Bell.
Pierre-Paul crashed right up into Beachum’s chest and dipped under his left shoulder. Beachum tried to rebound, reaching back to try to slow his advance, but the match was already lost. Granted, given expectations of a longer play, he made have played it differently.
It wasn’t all so lopsided, however, as we saw earlier in the same drive. Even though this is a quick pass, I like this play as an example of both players doing their jobs well. Beachum’s quick jump off the ball got him set for Pierre-Paul’s abnormal reach, which he used to his advantage here.
The defensive end locked his arms on Beachum and used his lower body strength to drive the left tackle backward a few clicks before he was able to anchor. While Pierre-Paul entered this league as a freakish athlete, this play points out that there will be instances where Beachum will be forced to rely on his quickness and technique to overcome some of his physical shortcomings. He’s obviously been succeeding at that to have been granted the opportunity to start at left tackle.