PITTSBURGH -- The 248th pick of the 2012 NFL draft emerged as one of the Steelers’ most unsung if not most valuable players last season.
Kelvin Beachum shored up left tackle, which had been a disaster through the first month of the season, and his play at one of football’s most important positions was one of the reasons why the Steelers won eight out of their last 12 games.
Yet many draft analysts continue to see offensive tackle as a position of need for Pittsburgh.
And that is something that would make Beachum smile instead of scowl.
“I love competition, love challenges,” the third-year man said, “so I’m ready to get going.”
Whether Beachum’s challenge at left tackle comes from Mike Adams, whom he replaced after the fourth game of last season, or a player the Steelers will draft this week remains to be seen.
One thing that is certain: Beachum will put as much into fending off challengers to his starting job as he does keeping pass rushers away from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Beachum didn’t make the Steelers as an unheralded rookie, didn’t work his way into a key role as a rookie and didn’t settle into the starting lineup at the all-important position of left tackle to stop doing what has gotten him to this point.
“How much are you willing to work?” Beachum said. “That’s what has kept me here, and I’m looking forward to continuing to do that as we go out and compete here over the next couple of months.”
Beachum is not a prototypical left tackle, which is why some analysts apparently think that position as an area of need for the Steelers. But the 6-3, 303-pounder is incredibly cerebral and meticulous -- traits that allow him to play any offensive line position -- and he had the physical attributes, including light feet, to more than hold his own while protecting Roethlisberger’s blind side in 11 starts at left tackle in 2013.
Beachum has already put in a lot of offseason work in the weight room, focusing on adding strength and keeping his body fat down. What should also help him hold onto the job that is his going into offseason practices: Beachum will get to focus one position as opposed to last year when he worked at multiple ones since his versatility was so valuable to a line always seems to be wracked by injuries.
And he will do so under new offensive line coach Mike Munchak, perhaps the Steelers’ most significant offseason addition.
“I think it will give me a chance to really fine-tune the craft that I’ve been wanting to have,” Beachum said of focusing on left tackle. “With the addition of Coach Munchak, technique is really going to be a thing that he focuses on and makes sure that we do a good job.”