NFL Nation: Kelvin Beachum

LATROBE, Pa. -- A snapshot from the Pittsburgh Steelers' final practice of the week on Thursday offered a tidy summation of Mike Adams' training camp.

[+] EnlargeMike Adams
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsOne goal for Mike Adams during the preseason is to work on his consistency, says Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
Adams, playing right tackle during an 11-on-11 drill, got bull rushed by outside linebacker Jason Worilds. Worilds, the Steelers' best pass-rusher, drove the 6-7, 323-pound Adams back so fast that the play never had a chance.

The sequence added to Adams' struggles and reinforced the perception that Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert are safe as the Steelers' starting tackles.

The challenge the Steelers are hoping Adams creates for a starting job up front has yet to materialize, and the third-year man has seemingly lost ground instead of closing it since the Steelers reported to training camp two weeks ago.

To be fair, Adams has been alternating between left and right tackle since the Steelers will need him to play both if he doesn't beat out Beachum or Gilbert. Also, the competition for jobs doesn't really start until Saturday night when the Steelers visit the New York Giants for the first exhibition for each team.

"What he needs to do is continue to work on his consistency, push (Beachum and Gilbert) and when he plays to play well," Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak said. "Put it in our court how we want to handle it, who are the best five or the best six or the best seven."

It would be charitable to put Adams among the Steelers' best seven offensive linemen through the first 11 practices.

And what has to be disconcerting to the Steelers is the 2012 second-round pick has not shown improvement despite rebounding nicely after losing his starting job at left tackle last season and working with Munchak, who is as good an offensive line coach as there is in the game.

"I think now he's locked into what he needs to do," Munchak said. "He's a young player that has, you hate to use the word potential because obviously it's there, but it's just a matter of can we get it out. Can he do it on a consistent basis."

If anyone can unlock Adams' potential it is Munchak, and the former still has plenty of opportunities to show the Steelers he can be a starter at this level -- or at least a solid No. 3 tackle who can also play tight end in the offense's jumbo package.

I don't believe Adams is in any danger of not making the 53-man roster. But he clearly has to show more if he is going to be a viable contributor this season and a part of the Steelers' long-term future.

Steelers Camp Report: Day 7

August, 2, 2014
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LATROBE, Pa. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp:
  • The offense and defense battled to a draw in one of the most anticipated drills of training camp. The offense scored three touchdowns in six attempts from the 1-yard line in the goal-line drill. Ben Roethlisberger threw an easy touchdown pass to tight end Matt Spaeth off play-action to start the drill. The play call didn’t sit well with the defense and might have contributed to cornerback Ike Taylor and LeGarrette Blount later jawing at each other from across the field. Tauren Poole and Josh Harris each scored on 1-yard runs, but the defense held its own, stopping three runs other short of the end zone. Inside linebacker Vince Williams blew up Poole short of the end zone, putting an exclamation on an impressive day. Williams had delivered a monster hit earlier in practice when he obliterated running back Miguel Maysonet in an 11-on-11 drill.
  • Rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant had his best practice of training camp. The fourth-round draft pick made a handful of difficult catches. None were more impressive than when Bryant twisted his body while on the run to catch a Bruce Gradkowski pass that had sailed behind the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Bryant in the end zone. “He’s a big, so we expect him to consistently make big-guy plays,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Bryant. "I’m interested in him developing a complete game.”
  • Tempers flared again a day after the first fight of training camp broke out and nearly turned into a brawl. Outside linebacker Chris Carter and left tackle Kelvin Beachum had to be separated at the end of one play during a red-zone drill. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and nose tackle Hebron Fangupo went at it during goal-line drills and punches were thrown before the two were separated.
  • Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey missed his second consecutive practice after sustaining a concussion last Thursday and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt remains out with groin tightness. Tomlin gave tight end Heath Miller and nose tackle Steve McLendon the day off in part so he could look at some of the younger players at those positions. Safety Mike Mitchell did some work, Tomlin said, and he might be close to returning. Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Steelers in March, has been on the physically unable to perform list since reporting to camp with a groin injury.
  • Rookie running back Dri Archer showcased his speed in one-on-one passing drills. Matched up several times against Lawrence Timmons, Archer made an over-the-shoulder catch after separating from Timmons on a wheel route. Earlier in the drill, Archer caught a pass in front of Timmons, stopped and then ran right past him.
  • The Steelers practice Sunday and Monday from 2:55 to 5:30 p.m. ET. The players are off on Tuesday and practice will resume on Wednesday.
Here is the latest Steelers mailbag. If you have a Steelers' question please send to @ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail. And away we go ... @ScottBrown_ESPN: I think Le'Veon Bell could get 300-plus carries this season but not much more than that even if he plays every game. The Steelers say they are committed to running the ball this season, and I don't think that's just lip service from offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. However, I doubt that the Steelers lean as heavily on Bell as they did last season because of the additions of LeGarrette Blount and Dri Archer. Bell will start at running back but the other two will get touches as well. I like that approach because I think it will extend the number of productive seasons Bell has in the NFL. That's probably not good news for fantasy football owners who covet Bell, but he will still be a prominent part of the offense and the Steelers will put his receiving skills to good use too. @ScottBrown_ESPN: I think he will because I expect Mike Adams, who may be the Steelers' most physically gifted offensive tackle, to benefit as much as anyone from offensive line coach Mike Munchak's tutelage. Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert got most of the first-team snaps at left tackle and right tackle, respectively, but the real competition along both the offensive and defensive line won't start until training camp. Adams has said he wants the opportunity to start whether it is at right or left tackle and I'd like to see the Steelers give him a shot at unseating Gilbert. I thought Adams played well at right tackle when he made six starts there as a rookie and he could be the future there if the Steelers don't sign Gilbert to a long-term contract before the start of the regular season. @ScottBrown_ESPN: Still pretty quiet on that front but I think the Steelers will re-sign Brett Keisel though it might not be until right before the start of training camp. He would be a terrific mentor for second-round pick Stephon Tuitt and Keisel's presence would allow the Steelers to bring Tuitt along slowly. I agree too that Keisel still has something left, and he could play in a rotation with Cam Thomas and Tuitt with the limited snaps keeping him fresh throughout the season. I know the Steelers are committed to getting younger on defense but Keisel would contribute both on and off the field. I think if defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has his way Keisel will be back for one more season. @ScottBrown_ESPN: I think Cortez Allen gets a new contract and that the Steelers let Marcus Gilbert play out the final year of his rookie deal. Allen is the only long-term starting cornerback on the roster right now and the Steelers can't afford to lose him. I think the two sides can reach a deal that is good for both and ensures that Allen is a Steeler well beyond the 2014 season. As for Gilbert, I just haven't seen enough from the former second-round pick to warrant the Steelers locking him up with a long-term deal. Much like outside linebacker Jason Worilds, I think the Steelers want to see more from Gilbert and will take their chances on getting a deal done after the season if he fits into the team's long-term plans. If Gilbert walks after the 2014 season the Steelers have Mike Adams to plug in at right tackle. @ScottBrown_ESPN: I believe that is the case since players are allowed in the building during the span that bridges the end of a season and the start of the team's offseason program. It would make sense too for the coaches to be available to rookies or first-year players who may have questions about the playbook. That availability, however, is limited in the sense that coaches take lengthy vacations not long after the conclusion of offseason practices since it is really the only extended break from football they will get all year. The building is mostly empty too since a lot of players travel somewhere to continue working out, often ratcheting up their training regimen to get ready for camp.
videoPITTSBURGH -- The pick: Dri Archer, RB, Kent State

My take: The Steelers added more speed, and arguably the fastest player in the draft, when they took Archer in the third round Friday night. This seems like a little early to take a running back, even one who could add a dynamic element to the offense. Archer is a blur -- running backs coach James Saxon said the Steelers timed him in under 4.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine -- but he is also small. Not that the Steelers will ask the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder to shoulder much of a workload. Archer will be used as a situational back as well as a kick returner, and he averaged 7.8 yards per carry last season while also catching 25 passes for 327 yards.

The Steelers tried this two years ago with ultra-fast Chris Rainey, and he was pedestrian even before they cut ties with him due to off-the-field issues. They must think Archer is a much better player, and his versatility and production at Kent State impressed the Steelers as much as his sheer speed. Archer rushed for 2,342 career yards and had 1,194 career receiving yards while also starring as a return specialist for the Golden Flashes. He should at least make an impact in the return game as a rookie.

Still waiting: Who would have guessed this? Two days and three rounds into the draft, the Steelers have yet to take a cornerback or a wide receiver. They have addressed inside linebacker, defensive end and running back, with only the middle position qualifying as one of serious need. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said he is not worried about the Steelers' depth at cornerback. "I feel good about the cornerbacks that we have, and we have more numbers there than people realize," LeBeau said. "We may have great players in the building; they just haven’t had the chance to show us they are greater."

What’s next: The Steelers will be plenty busy Saturday. They have one pick in the fourth round -- which starts at noon -- two in the fifth, two in the sixth and one in the seventh. The Steelers have made some late-round finds in recent years, getting wide receiver Antonio Brown, left tackle Kelvin Beachum and linebacker Vince Williams in the sixth round or later since 2010.
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum wasn’t even 5 years old when Mike Munchak played in his final football game in 1993. But Beachum knows enough about NFL history that he didn’t need to do any research after the Steelers hired Munchak to coach their offensive line.

“He’s one of those guys you don’t have to go to Google and read about him,” Beachum said. “You know about him already.”

[+] EnlargeMike Munchak
AP Photo/Wade Payne"The guy is no-nonsense. He wants to get the job done," Steelers offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum said of Mike Munchak.
Beachum distilled the impact of Munchak's credentials into two words: “Instant credibility.”

In a Steelers offseason marked by additions – and subtractions – Munchak could prove to be the most significant one.

The Steelers have yet field an offensive line under coach Mike Tomlin that can consistently take over games. That could change with Munchak, a Pro Football Hall of Fame guard and also a highly regarded offensive line coach.

The former Titans head coach will mold and lead a promising group that returns four starters as well as Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who missed most of last season with a knee injury.

“The guy is no-nonsense,” Beachum said. “He wants to get the job done. He has guys in the offensive line are hungry to win and to go out and prove that this is an offensive line that can really carry this team. He’s already had a presence in the room since we’ve met with him a couple of times as an offensive line.”

Munchak is still early in the process of getting to know his new players -- and vice versa -- and he has to be encouraged with the potential of a group that won’t have a starter over 28 this season and only allowed seven sacks in the Steelers’ final seven games in 2013.

Beachum said the line has met with Munchak several times and that the terminology won’t change much. That should ease the transition to a new position coach for the players.

Munchak is expected to implement an outside zone-blocking scheme, something the Steelers abandoned after Pouncey tore his ACL eight plays into the 2013 season, but Beachum said, “I think we’re still going to be varied a little bit, the inside zone and the outside zone and still using the gap scheme. I’m looking to the running game just really taking off in general.”

The offensive line, too.

“To have a Hall of Famer in the room really just speaks volumes because he’s played the game,” Beachum said of Munchak. “He knows what you’re going through, he knows what to expect, he knows you’re going to get beat sometimes, which is part of the National Football League. Then he also knows how to excel. He’s done it a very high level. He’s known for it, and I think he’s going to bring a lot to the room and I know he will.”
PITTSBURGH -- Several Pittsburgh Steelers applauded the NBA for imposing a lifetime ban on Donald Sterling in the wake of the racist comments the league says the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers made in a recorded conversation.

The controversy, which transcended sports, prompted players such as defensive end Cameron Heyward to express how much they appreciate playing for the Rooney family, which has owned the Steelers since their inception in 1933.

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"I’m very blessed and humbled to be part of an organization that values their workers," Heyward said on Tuesday, shortly before NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the Sterling ban. "It’s just an unfortunate situation with what’s going on out there. A lot of organizations can learn from it and just grow from it."

Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum said Silver did the right thing in taking a hard line against Sterling.

"I think it was needed," Beachum said. "What [Sterling] did was not right and was very disappointing. If I was a player for him I would be very disappointed to know that my owner spoke like that, especially being of African-American descent."

When asked if the controversy showed the contrast between Sterling and Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney, Beachum chuckled.

"It’s not even a comparison," the third-year veteran said. "Ever since I’ve known the Rooneys they’ve been cordial. You never hear anything that’s negative in any way. Any man that can come up and shake your hand and talk to you and have a great relationship with you, and you know genuinely that’s how he feels, that’s a great thing. I’ve had that with [Dan Rooney and Steelers president Art Rooney II]."

Dan Rooney is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he has long been at the forefront of promoting diversity in the NFL. He pushed for a requirement enacted in 2003 that requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when hiring a general manager or head coach, and it is commonly known as the Rooney Rule.

Veteran wide receiver Lance Moore played the previous nine seasons in New Orleans before signing with the Steelers last month.

He said he is fortunate to have played for an owner like Tom Benson in New Orleans and now for the Rooney family.

“Tom Benson did things the right way. He made sure his players were taken care of, and the players in turn played hard for him,” Moore said. “The Rooneys, from the short time I’ve been here as well as what I’ve heard about them, they are awesome. They are all about their players and their organization and doing things the right way.”
PITTSBURGH -- On the same day Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Steelers have told Ben Roethlisberger they plan to draft a tall wide receiver early, general manager Kevin Colbert offered this nugget in regard to the franchise quarterback.

“What we have to do is surround [Roethlisberger] with the best talent,” Colbert said on Wednesday, “and he has to play to that level that he’s capable of playing if we do get that talent around him.”

Colbert’s response was parsed and part of a larger answer to his acknowledgement that Big Ben isn’t getting any younger. But it signaled that the Steelers plan to go all-in with Roethlisberger, who turns 32 next month, and give him every chance of getting the organization back to the Super Bowl.

That, taken with what Dulac reported during an online chat, points to the Steelers providing Roethlisberger with the tall wide receiver he has long coveted – and hasn’t had since his rookie season in 2004.

Think about it.

The offense, unlike a defense in transition, is already largely in place for 2014.

Pro Bowler Antonio Brown returns after authoring the greatest season by a Steelers wide receiver. Le’Veon Bell has established himself as a feature back with plenty of upside after a robust rookie season. Tight end Heath Miller, solid in 2013, will be even better next season when he isn’t coming back from reconstructive knee surgery.

Colbert could have been referring to the offensive line when talking about the need to surround Roethlisberger with top talent. But the line returns intact after making significant improvement in the second half of last season, and it will get better under the watchful eye of new offensive line coach Mike Munchak.

Kelvin Beachum may not be a prototypical left tackle but he proved to be more than capable there after supplanting Mike Adams following the fourth game of the season. And the second-year man provided enough of a sample size for the Steelers to think he can hold his own protecting Roethlisberger’s blind side while also continuing to get better.

The obvious missing piece on offense is a rangy wide receiver, and the Steelers may not get a better chance to provide Roethlisberger with one while he is still in his prime.

The draft that Colbert said is as deep as any he has seen in 30 years is particularly flush with wide receivers. There are tall ones such as Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin -- each is listed as at least 6-foot-5 -- and there also appears to be a handful in the 6-2, 6-3 range who could be early-round selections.

Whether that means the Steelers draft a tall wide receiver in the first or second round remains to be seen. Colbert insists that the Steelers stick to their draft board and that talent always trumps need when they are making their picks.

The Steelers can’t know how things will shake out during the pre-draft evaluations that shift into another gear next week at the NFL combine.

Or how the actual draft in May plays out.

But if the Steelers are intent on taking advantage of every snap that Roethlisberger has left at wide receiver at No. 15 overall is very much in play despite the more pressing needs they have on defense.
PITTSBURGH -- Kelvin Beachum started 11 of the Pittsburgh Steelers' final 12 games at left tackle -- he missed a game because of a knee injury -- and strengthened his grip on the position as the season progressed.

Not that Beachum would engage in any talk about his future at the all-important position when he cleaned out his locker a couple of weeks ago.

[+] EnlargeKelvin Beachum
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarKelvin Beachum starts the offseason as the presumptive starter at left tackle.
Beachum gave his standard replay -- "ask the organization" -- when the subject was broached multiple times in multiple ways.

He did explain why he refuses to address his future at left tackle.

"I don't know what their plan is," the second-year man said. "All I can do is continue to prepare, look at film, grow from it. I learned a lot playing left tackle. All I can do is continue learning and continue getting better."

Such sensibilities may stem from Beachum getting taken near the end of the 2012 NFL draft. The seventh-round pick knows nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, particularly for those who enter the league in the manner that he did.

Beachum's stock answer to all left tackle questions also speaks to the singular focus he applies to his job -- whether it is learning every position along the offensive line and filling in where needed or doing everything he can to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's blind side.

Beachum takes the latter seriously enough that he has sought out advice from a number of former Steelers offensive linemen, including Tunch Ilkin, Kendall Simmons and Marvel Smith.

Beachum talked with Simmons at a Steelers event last season in Pittsburgh. He met with Smith, who was the Steelers' left tackle for much of the last decade before back issues cut short his career, when the team played in Oakland last October.

Ilkin, the color analyst for Steelers' radio broadcasts, is a regular at the team's practice facility, and he is often seen chatting up Beachum.

"Anybody that's willing to help me become a better player I'm willing to take their advice and put it in my tool box," Beachum said.

That willingness to soak up advice from those who have played before him is one reason why Beachum will enter offseason workouts and practices as the starting left tackle.

"He's got a big offseason and training camp [ahead of him]," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "but he's in pretty decent position from that regard."

That is all that Tomlin would concede when it comes to Beachum's hold on left tackle.

"I will not allow him to have an opportunity to exhale or seek comfort in regards to that," Tomlin said.

Not that Beachum needs any reminders that he has to keep working and keep getting better.

The 6-foot-3, 306-pounder, who is not a prototypical left tackle, said he wants to add strength during the offseason without compromising his athleticism. He plans to work out in Pittsburgh with defensive end Cameron Heyward among others in advance of the Steelers' offseason workouts.

Beachum's emergence at left tackle should allow the Steelers to use their first-round pick in the 2014 draft on another position. Even if the Steelers don't draft a left tackle at some point Beachum will face competition from Mike Adams.

Adams faltered at left tackle last season but the 2012 second-round pick steadied himself after his demotion and contributed as an extra tight end. Adams also played well when he started in place of Beachum against the Dolphins last month.

Adams will have a new position coach this year and he won't have to overcome an offseason stabbing, something that had to set him back last year. His presence -- as well as the investment the Steelers made in Adams -- won't allow Beachum to get too comfortable at left tackle.

Whatever challenges Beachum has to fend off won't faze him considering the path he has taken from the 248th pick of the 2012 draft to the job of Steelers left tackle.

"I embraced and enjoyed the challenge," Beachum said, "and we'll see what the organization has in store for me moving forward."

Offensive line could become a strength

December, 17, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers' offensive line has been beaten up in more ways than one ever since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007.

Could the oft-maligned unit become a reason why the Steelers win next season? Don't scoff.

David DeCastro has emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber guard this season. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey is expected to return in 2014 from a torn ACL. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum has played well enough that the Steelers may not have to target the position with their first pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

[+] EnlargePittsburgh's offensive line
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarThe Steelers have a strong offensive line to build upon if they can ever stay healthy.
“The biggest problem with the offensive line,” former NFL scout and ESPN analyst Matt Williamson said, “is they can't ever start the same five guys.”

Injuries have long been the X factor along the offensive line and any optimistic forecast for its future has to come with the caveat that the Steelers, for whatever reason, cannot stay healthy up front.

Assume for the sake of argument that the line isn't as wracked by injuries next season as it has been in recent years. DeCastro, Pouncey and left guard Ramon Foster would give them a strong interior around which to build.

That is especially true in the case of DeCastro, whom Williamson said has already established himself as one of the top five or six guards in the NFL.

“He doesn't have a major weakness,” Williamson said. “He can run the power stuff. He can pass block. There's a lot to like about him.”

Williamson echoed similar sentiments about Beachum, who took over at left tackle after the fourth game of the season and has earned glowing praise from offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

The 6-3, 306-pound Beachum is not a prototypical left tackle, and teams generally find protectors for their quarterback's blind side near the beginning of the draft not the end of it.

But Beachum, a late seventh-round pick in 2012, is proving to be the exception to several rules.

“I'm starting to come around on him,” Williamson said. “He might he good enough and he seems to be getting better.”

The 2014 draft is supposed to be deep at offensive tackle, and if the Steelers use their first pick on a potential franchise left tackle, Beachum would still have a key role on the team -- whether he serves as a super sub who can play all five positions or bolsters the line at another position.

The play of DeCastro and Beachum this season is the biggest reason for optimism for the offensive line, and Mike Adams still has time to develop into a long-term starter up front, whether it is at left or right tackle.

Injuries can scramble the offensive line throughout the season as the Steelers well know. But the investment they have made in their line in recent drafts could really start to pay off next season.

If the group can stay relatively healthy.

Brett Keisel out again for Steelers

December, 13, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers will be without starting defensive end Brett Keisel for at least another week.

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A nagging foot injury will sideline the 12-year veteran for the Steelers' Sunday night game against the Bengals. Keisel has played just one game since hurting his foot in the Steelers' 23-10 win over the Bills more than a month ago.

The Steelers are relatively healthy for their second game of the season against the Bengals.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu practiced Friday after sitting out the first two practices of the week because of a shoulder injury. He is among seven players who are listed as probable for the 8:30 p.m. ET game Sunday at Heinz Field.

Kelvin Beachum is also listed as probable after missing last Sunday's game with a knee injury. Barring a setback, the second-year player will start at left tackle against the Bengals.

Also probable are wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders (foot) and Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle), right guard David DeCastro (foot) and defensive end Ziggy Hood (ankle).

Nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) is listed as questionable.

LT Beachum stays on track for Steelers

December, 12, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- Left tackle Kelvin Beachum practiced for a second consecutive day and remained on track to return Sunday night against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.

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Beachum (knee), right guard David DeCastro (foot) and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder) were among the players nursing injuries who were not limited in practice on Thursday.

One player to monitor is strong safety Troy Polamalu (shoulder), who didn’t practice for a second consecutive day. The Steelers are probably just being cautious with Polamalu, though the problem could be something that cropped up this week.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not mention Polamalu on Tuesday when he provided an injury update at his weekly news conference.

Tomlin said on Tuesday that Brett Keisel (foot) would try to work his way back. But the veteran defensive end has yet to practice this week, making Friday a critical day as far as his status for the Bengals game.

In addition to Keisel, nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) did not practice for the second consecutive day.

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot) was limited on Thursday after practicing fully on Wednesday.

Beachum on track to return for Steelers

December, 11, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- Left tackle Kelvin Beachum was a full participant in the Steelers’ first practice of the week, and he is on track to play Sunday against the visiting Bengals.

Beachum had started eight consecutive games at left tackle before spraining his knee in a 22-20 loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving. Coach Mike Tomlin did not commit to starting Beachum against the Bengals Tuesday at his weekly news conference. How much and how well Beachum practices will determine who protects quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side against the Bengals, Tomlin said.

Mike Adams started at left tackle against the Dolphins and played one of his best games of the season.

Less certain of returning to action this week for the Steelers is defensive end Brett Keisel.

The veteran defensive end did not practice on Wednesday, and he has played in just one of the Steelers’ last four games because of plantar fasciitis.

Also not practicing for the Steelers because of injuries were defensive end Ziggy Hood (ankle), nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and strong safety Troy Polamalu (shoulder).

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder) and right guard David DeCastro (foot) were full participants in practice despite nursing injuries.

Adams should start the rest of the season

December, 11, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- Their playoff hopes may have been dashed following back-to-back losses by a combined eight points, but Mike Tomlin is playing to win in the final three weeks of the season.

“There’s no question about that,” the seventh-year coach said.

The unequivocal response to a question about whether now is the time to also take a long look at some younger players is why Will Allen will remain as the third safety in the Steelers’ quarter package instead of giving way to rookie Shamarko Thomas. It is also why rookie Markus Wheaton, who played just four snaps last Sunday against the Dolphins, may have to continue to bide his time as the Steelers’ No. 4 wide receiver.

[+] EnlargeMike Adams
AP Photo/Don WrightThe Steelers used a second-round pick on Mike Adams in the 2012 draft.
There is one case in which the Steelers can play to win but also use the final three games to further evaluate a young player.

Mike Adams played well enough at left tackle against the Dolphins to earn another start there, and the second-year man should finish the season where he started it: protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's blind side.

Adams’ early struggles were so pronounced that he lost his starting job at left tackle, but he impressed his coaches and teammates with how he responded to the benching after the Steelers' fourth game of the season.

Adams worked his way into the lineup as an extra tight end when the Steelers used six offensive linemen, and a knee injury to Kelvin Beachum provided an opportunity for him to start at left tackle against the Dolphins.

The offensive line struggled in the Steelers’ 34-28 loss but Adams’ play was a positive. He did not commit any penalties, and Adams did a solid job of protecting Roethlisberger.

“I thought he represented himself well and it was a great opportunity to get back in the tackle position and show his capabilities in that area,” Tomlin said.

The Steelers will have to decide in the offseason whether the 6-foot-7, 323-pound Adams is their left tackle of the future or whether they like Beachum enough to keep him there. Adams is easily the more prototypical left tackle of the two, and the Steelers used a 2012 second-round draft pick on the former Ohio State star for a reason.

If the Steelers determine that their future left tackle is not on their roster they will target the position early in the 2014 NFL draft. This year’s class is expected to be flush with left tackle prospects though it would help the Steelers if they didn’t have to use one of their top picks on one.

The defense is in desperate need of playmakers, and nothing would benefit the Steelers more than if they could address that side of the ball with their first-round pick in the draft.

Adams’ development will be a significant part of the equation when the Steelers decide how much of a priority they place on offensive tackle in the draft.

And the Steelers can take an extended look at Adams at left tackle over the next three weeks while still satisfying Tomlin's mandate of playing to win.

Keisel, Beachum may return for Steelers

December, 10, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers' playoff hopes can be listed as doubtful but at least they are relatively healthy.

Defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) and left tackle Kelvin Beachum (knee) will be limited in practice this week but each could play Sunday night against the visiting Bengals.

"We anticipate having most if not all of our guys available," coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

Keisel has played in just one of the Steelers' past four games -- and sparingly at that -- because of plantar fasciitis. Tomlin said the 12th-year veteran underwent an extensive workout on Monday and the Steelers will continue to monitor his progress.

Beachum, who sprained his knee in a 22-20 loss Baltimore on Thanksgiving night, will also push to return to action this week. The second-year man will likely be limited during the early part of the week, and even if Beachum is able to play he may not return to the starting lineup.

Tomlin said a decision on whether Beachum or Mike Adams starts at left tackle will hinge on how much the former is able to practice this week. Adams played his best game of the season in the Steelers’ 34-28 loss to the Dolphins after making his first start at left tackle since late September.

In other injury news, defensive end Ziggy Hood (ankle) and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder) will be limited in practice but both are expected to play Sunday.

Woodley, Bell appear good to go

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
2:18
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely have their two best pass-rushers Sunday when they host the Dolphins as well as their leading rusher.

Bell
Woodley
Woodley
Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) and running back Le'Veon Bell (concussion) are listed as probable for the 1 p.m. game at Heinz Field along with starting right guard David DeCastro (foot).

Woodley has missed the past three games, and his anticipated return will allow the Steelers to start him opposite Jason Worilds, who leads the team with six sacks. Woodley has said he will start at left outside linebacker even though Worilds has shined there in his absence.

Bell still has to pass league-mandated concussion tests before he is cleared to return to action.

Unless he suffers a setback Bell will run behind an offensive line that will have its sixth different starting combination this season.

Cody Wallace will make his first career start at center while Mike Adams is likely to start at left tackle with Kelvin Beachum (knee) doubtful to play against the Dolphins.

Adams, who started the first four games at left tackle before losing the job, has been dealing with an ankle injury but he is listed as probable for Sunday.

Nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) is questionable for Sunday. Defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) had been ruled out earlier this week for the game.

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