Although it was not one of the highlights from Pittsburgh’s 26-20 loss to Kansas City on Saturday night, I was nevertheless intrigued when I saw Kelvin Beachum lined up at tight end. Despite the fact that the “jack-of-all-trades” lineman has lined up at basically every other spot along Pittsburgh’s offensive line, it was still a bit of a shock to see Beachum playing that particular position.
Now however, I have come to the realization that employing the versatile lineman as an extra tight end actually makes a great deal of sense for the Steelers, particularly during the early part of the upcoming regular season.
With Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth sidelined for large chunks of the 2013 campaign, the Steelers will be forced to use David Paulson and David Johnson as in-line tight ends. While Paulson and Johnson can contribute in the passing game, both are nothing short of glorified H-backs/fullbacks playing the tight end position and are nowhere near the caliber of run blockers that Miller and Spaeth are.
At least with Beachum the Steelers will have some versatility to exercise in the running game as well. With an extra offensive lineman in specific packages, Pittsburgh can utilize unbalanced lines and even shift a lineman like Beachum around to chip in and help in the trenches. The Steelers ranked 26th in total rushing yards last fall, and they ranked an even more pathetic 28th in yards per carry. Thus, the inclusion of another offensive lineman as a tight end with Miller and Spaeth sidelined would do nothing to hurt Pittsburgh’s offense.
I should also add that some extra regular season reps, no matter where he lines up, will benefit Beachum simply due to the fact that he projects to be the “first man up” if an injury strikes along the offensive line. Although Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert project to be Pittsburgh’s starting tackles, both players saw their 2012 seasons end prematurely due to injuries. The more that Beachum can be “game-ready” then the more confident that the Steelers’ coaching staff can be if they have to turn to him this fall if offensive linemen start dropping left and right.
Until Miller can return to the lineup, Pittsburgh will need Paulson, Johnson, and Beachum to pick up the slack in the run-blocking department. With Beachum now working at tight end, this tells me that Mike Tomlin & Co. are comfortable with carrying only two healthy tight ends, in addition to the injured Miller, during the early part of the regular season. I certainly cannot blame the coaching staff, especially because roster spots are needed elsewhere. I just hope that Beachum can step up if and when he is called upon to line up at tight end this fall.
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