Kelvin Beachum has been one of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ most pleasant surprises this season. After beginning his second season with the team as a backup tight end and center, Beachum was named the team’s starting left tackle after injuries and poor play plagued the team during their 0-4 start. While the former seventh round pick has been anything but stellar on the blind side for the last eight games, his play has been adequate enough for the starting job to be his and his alone for at least the rest of this season.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, their rapidly improving Swiss Army knife suffered a knee sprain during their loss last Thursday to the Baltimore Ravens. While the injury itself does not appear to be season-ending like Fernando Velasco’s Achilles tear, it has kept Beachum from practicing this week.
If the former S.M.U. Mustang is indeed sidelined for Pittsburgh’s upcoming game against the Miami Dolphins, then it will be up to the man he replaced at left tackle, Mike Adams, to step in and hold down the fort.
Adams, who was selected in the second round in the same draft class as Beachum, went through an immense amount of struggles when he was the starter at left tackle earlier this season. It was sad to watch the former Ohio State Buckeye manhandled by the likes of Cincinnati’s talented defensive ends, Julius Peppers, and Jared Allen, especially since he earned the team’s Rookie of the Year award the season before when he manned the right tackle position.
To his credit, Adams was not discouraged after his demotion. Since he was replaced by Beachum, Adams has played a valuable role as an extra tight end and tackle in Pittsburgh’s jumbo packages. A strong run-blocker with a massive frame, the second-year tackle has done a terrific job over the last eight games in those specific instances. In addition, Adams has been inserted into the lineup at left tackle in different situations due to injuries sustained during the Oakland and Baltimore games.
Of course, Adams will not be in for a cake-walk this weekend if he makes his first start at left tackle in almost three months. The Miami Dolphins have one of the league’s most potent pass rushes (37 sacks, T-5th), and defensive ends Cameron Wake (6.5 sacks) and Olivier Vernon (10.5 sacks) have led the charge this fall.
Dealing with and containing a veteran and 2012 All-Pro in the form Wake will be difficult enough for Adams. Yet he must also keep his head on a swivel for Vernon who was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his play against the New York Jets last Sunday.
Keeping those two, along with the rest of Miami’s defenders, at bay will be of the utmost importance this weekend for Pittsburgh’s offense. As much as Todd Haley can tailor his game-plan to protect Ben Roethlisberger (no-huddle, quick-hitting passes, threat of a running game, chip blocking, etc.), the Steelers will need a productive day from their entire offensive line.
So in the event that Beachum sits and Adams is inserted into the starting lineup, it will be up to the once-demoted player to step up and turn in an adequate performance against a couple of quality defensive ends. Whether or not Adams can actually do so if he is called upon on Sunday is a completely different matter altogether.
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