Beachum settles at left tackle for Steelers

July 29, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Emmanuel McCray hits the blocking sled during a recent practice at training camp in Latrobe. The Steelers had Tuesday off and will return to the practice field today. The session begins at 2:55 p.m. at Saint Vincent College and is open to the public. - Associated Press

LATROBE – Entering the 2013 season, Steelers offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum was viewed as a jack-of-all-trades.

That’s not a bad thing. But the second part of that old adage is that the jack-of-all- trades is a master of none.

Beachum shook that tag when he started 11 of the Steelers’ final 12 games at left tackle, missing one game with a knee injury.

Pittsburgh’s record in the games started by Beachum at left tackle was 8-3, which was impressive when you consider the Steelers were 0-5 when he didn’t line up at left tackle.

Because of that, Beachum entered training camp at Saint Vincent College as the Steelers’ starter at the position.

That doesn’t mean that Beachum coasted in the offseason.

As a former seventh-round draft pick – the last of four seventh rounders the Steelers had in 2012 – Beachum knows he had to work hard to get to this point. Of the other three 2012 seventh-round picks, only tight end David Paulson, taken eight selections before Beachum, remains with the team. Cornerback Terrence Frederick and wide receiver Toney Clemons have long since been released.

“I’m still competing; competing with myself every single play, trying to make every play as perfect as it can be, aiming for perfection,” Beachum said.

The Steelers always felt they got a late-round steal in Beachum because he was talented enough to play multiple positions and intelligent enough to not need a lot of practice time at any one spot to be capable of stepping in at a moment’s notice.

Beachum garnered numerous academic accolades in college at SMU and even served as the school’s student representative to the SMU Board of Trustees. But at 6-3, 303 pounds, his lack of size was a cause for concern in the draft even though he started all 52 games at left tackle for the Mustangs in the previous four seasons.

There’s nothing Beachum can do to improve his height. He’s the smallest starting left tackle in the NFL.

His strength, on the other hand, is something he’s worked hard to increase heading into his third season.

During the offseason, he spent time working at former NFL Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley’s O-Line Performance Center in Scottdale, Ariz.

“I went to the O-Line Performance Center and made tremendous strides,” said Beachum, who is noticeably thicker in his shoulders this year. “I never want to stay stagnant. I never want to stay the same. I always want to find a way to be better, get stronger. That’s the key to my game. I’m just adding tools to the toolbox.”

Now that he’s settled in at left tackle, that toolbox is a little less cluttered than it was a year ago, when he spent time practicing at tackle, guard and center.

When new offensive line coach Mike Munchak – Beachum’s third offensive line coach in three seasons – talks about the Steelers’ offensive tackle position, Beachum is at the top of the list as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blind-side protector.

Beachum has taken all of the first-team snaps at left tackle, while Marcus Gilbert has lined up exclusively on the right side with the first team. Mike Adams, last year’s starter to open the season at left tackle, has played both positions with the second unit.

General manager Kevin Colbert cited Beachum as a “huge” reason for the team’s turnaround from its 0-4 start last season.

Beachum is looking forward to seeing what the new season will bring.

“I’m very excited,” Beachum said. “You’re always excited to play football. You see progress from Year 1 to Year 2, and Year 2 to Year 3. You can see the season coming up and you’re excited to be back on the field. Last year, we didn’t start out too well, but where we finished, it gives you some confidence. It gives you something to build upon for the next year. Now, we’re here.”

Odds and end zones

The Steelers placed center David Snow (foot fracture) on the waived injured list and signed former Wake Forest running back Josh Harris. ... The Steelers had Tuesday off before six consecutive days of practice. … Today’s practice (2:55-5 p.m.) is open to the public.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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