Although Kelvin Beachum did a tremendous job during his 11-game stint as Pittsburgh’s starting left tackle this fall, some have wondered whether or not the former S.M.U. Mustang can be the franchise’s long-term guy on the blind-side.
With so many talented offensive tackles set to be potentially eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft, it comes as no shock to me that members of Steeler Nation would want those in charge of the franchise to select one in the first round.
Intrigue of selecting a left tackle with the 15th overall pick one aside, Pittsburgh’s brass could be forced to address more problematic positions on their roster than left tackle after the free agency dust settles in a couple of months.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers could stand to add one or two more wide receivers to their depth chart. Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery are impending unrestricted free agents (UFAs), and how much the inexperienced Markus Wheaton, Derek Moye and Justin Brown will be able to contribute next fall is still an enormous mystery.
In addition, Pittsburgh cannot afford to overlook a play-making tight end in the early stages of the 2014 NFL Draft either.
Matt Spaeth, David Paulson and Michael Palmer are not receiving threats in the least bit, but guys like Jace Amaro or Eric Ebron could give Pittsburgh’s offense a matchup nightmare to play alongside Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. Taking potential defenders out of the box on a consistent basis will only lead to more success for Le’Veon Bell as well, and an athletic tight end to spread things out could be just what this offense needs to kick into high gear in 2014.
As far as their needs on the defensive side of the ball are concerned, Pittsburgh’s much maligned unit could be in for a serious makeover during the next several months.
Depth could be needed at nose tackle and defensive end since three of the team’s top contributors set to enter the UFA market this spring. Although defensive line coach John Mitchell has developed plenty of late-round gems during his illustrious career, this team cannot afford to lose Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Al Woods.
At inside and outside linebacker, the Steelers could also be extremely thin in the depth department very soon. Larry Foote might be too expensive for the cap-strapped franchise to keep, and the front office must make a decision on who to keep between LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds. Whether Chris Carter and Stevenson Sylvester can be reliable stop-gaps if they are called upon is still a pressing question, and Jarvis Jones is also a question mark entering his second professional campaign.
Like their front-seven, Pittsburgh’s secondary could use also use an influx of young talent as well this spring. Ike Taylor was consistently torched towards the end of last season, and William Gay and Cortez Allen are the only other cornerbacks on the roster with any significant experience. In terms of their depth at safety, Ryan Clark is as good as gone, Troy Polamalu is entering the final season of his current contract and Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden are relatively untested.
Of course, a defense-heavy draft will not automatically mean that the youngsters will even see a lick of playing time if Dick LeBeau sticks around for another season.That however is a subject for an entirely different article.
Make no mistake, I am not opposed to Pittsburgh’s brass gambling in the middle and later stages of the draft on a project left tackle who can to develop behind Beachum for a couple of seasons and provide some future depth. Marcus Gilbert will be a UFA in 2015 and Adams will hit the open market in 2016. Thus, the need for depth in the near future will exist.
In my humble opinion however, Pittsburgh should roll the dice with Beachum as their starting left tackle next fall. He was the most competent player at the position for the team in 2013, improved down the stretch and was not nearly the type of liability that Adams was when he lined up out of position for the first four games of that year.
Although Beachum has his limitations in terms of his size and strength, the Steelers’ brass should be confident enough that the starting job should be his to lose so they can draft to fill enormous holes elsewhere on their roster.
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