PITTSBURGH – Though they haven’t played up to their potential in the first two preseason games, the Steelers are relatively settled on their starting five offensive linemen.
Believe it or not, they’re settled on who will back each of those linemen up throughout the season as well.
That’s been the easy part. It’s all the same guy, at least for now.
Though he’s only listed as the backup at right tackle behind Marcus Gilbert, in reality, second-year lineman Kelvin Beachum would be the first guy off the bench if the Steelers had an injury at any of the five positions.
“This guy is versatile,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “We’ve asked him to work at center and guard, and he’s done a great job at both.”
The ability to play all five spots is both a blessing and a curse for Beachum, a seventh-round draft pick in 2012, who wound up starting five games last season at right tackle because of injuries.
On one hand, his versatility is greatly valued by the Steelers, who can only dress 45 players on game days. On the other hand, because he’s so versatile, Beachum doesn’t get a lot of work at any one position and, hence, can’t compete for a starting job.
That has changed the past two weeks as the Steelers have decided to give Beachum the opportunity to work primarily at right tackle.
“You’ve got to nail him down and give him consistent participation at one spot,” said Tomlin. “He played tackle last week. He’ll play tackle again this week.
“He’ll be given an opportunity to make a case for himself in that regard. … We’ll give him the opportunity to ascend like we give anyone the opportunity to ascend, even though he’s been doing multiple things.”
Last week, Tomlin had expressed an interest in getting Beachum some time at center – the one position he hasn’t played in a game – in the Steelers’ second preseason game. Because the first-team offensive line struggled Monday night at Washington, Tomlin kept those players in the game longer, and Beachum’s opportunity never materialized. He lined up at tackle instead.
That’s where he’ll be again Saturday, when the Steelers host Kansas City in their third preseason game, unless an injury happens to occur to one of the starters, who are expected to play the first half.
Beachum has been OK with being asked to be a Jack of all trades.
“I’m just learning the tricks of the trade at each position,” said Beachum. “I’m not overthinking it or underthinking it. I’m holding myself accountable for the reps that I am getting at whatever position it is and making the best of it.”
He’s been willing to do what’s been asked, even if it has cost him a shot at winning a starting job to this point.
“I am just getting in where I can fit in to be an asset to the organization,” Beachum said. “I played tackle in the game and I did some good things. I still have some things to work on. Whenever my number is called, I just have to be ready.”
Meanwhile, Tomlin said Thursday that rookie running back Le’Veon Bell’s sprained right foot is progressing better than expected. Bell won’t play Saturday against Kansas City, but he’s not ready to talk about a long-term prognosis for his return.
“We are optimistic and encouraged in how it’s developed over the last 48 to 72 hours,” said Tomlin. “He is doing some things without discomfort, some rehabilitation – like exercises. It won’t be surgically repaired or need to be surgically repaired. So, all of those things are positive.”
Odds and end zones
Tight end David Johnson, who was activated off the PUP list Wednesday, and cornerback Cortez Allen, who returned to practice late last week, are expected to see their first action of the preseason Saturday. … Tomlin is hopeful veteran running backs Isaac Redman and LaRod Stephens-Howling will be able to play. Neither dressed for the game against the Redskins.