Last month Pro Football Focus predicted that former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum would return to the Steelers after five seasons removed from Pittsburgh. But that possibility no longer exists, as he has agreed to a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals.
Never mind that PFF rated Beachum, 31, as one of the Top 100 free agents (No. 89) having noted that he “provided one of the best values in the NFL” last season, starting all 16 games at right tackle on a veteran minimum contract while providing “above-average pass blocking and below-average run blocking.”
Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports that Beachum’s new two-year contract is for $4 million, with $3.075 million in guarantees and $2.075 million fully guaranteed.
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Relationships Have Played a Pivotal Role in Kelvin Beachum’s Career
But need, value and past history with the team aren’t the only reasons that Beachum was linked to the Steelers as a potential stopgap option at offensive tackle. He also has a longstanding relationship with Adrian Klemm, who spent the past two seasons as Pittsburgh’s assistant offensive line coach and has since been promoted to offensive line coach.
That relationship dates back more than ten years, when Klemm was Beachum’s offensive line coach at SMU. It was during Beachum’s last year with the Mustangs that he showed enough promise for Pittsburgh to make him a seventh-round pick in 2012.
He went on to play for the Steelers for the entirety of his rookie contract, highlighted by a 16-start season in 2014. Then he moved on to spend a year with the Jacksonville Jaguars and three years with the New York Jets before heading west to Arizona.
Beachum has since gone out of his way to credit Klemm for his NFL career.
“I wouldn’t be in the NFL if it wasn’t for Adrian Klemm,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month. “I still call him to get tidbits, just tips on how to be a pro. That’s the same for all the guys who played for him.”
On the other hand, Beachum also has very strong ties to a coach on Arizona’s staff, namely run game coordinator/offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who was with the Steelers (2010-12) when they drafted Beachum in 2012.
The Offensive Tackle Situation in Pittsburgh
As for the state of the offensive tackle position in Pittsburgh, it appears that the Steelers are making a concerted effort to get younger (though there have been rumors that the team has been negotiating with Alejandro Villaneua, 33, who is a free agent after starting every game for the Steelers at left tackle for the past five seasons).
But as of this moment, Chuks Okorafor—a former third-round pick who is entering the last year of the contract he signed in 2018—projects as the starter on one side. The other projected starter is Zach Banner, who just signed a two-year, $9 million extension, but is coming off a torn ACL he suffered in the season opener last season against the New York Giants.
The Steelers also have five offensive tackles signed to Reserve/Future contracts, including former Minnesota Vikings tackle Aviante Collins, who is best-known for running one of the fastest 40-yard dash times ever recorded by an offensive lineman at the NFL Combine. There’s also: Brandon Walton, who spent most of last season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, having played both tackle positions at Florida Atlantic; John Leglue, who has spent time on the practice squads of the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers; Anthony Coyle, a former All-Patriot League lineman who was originally signed by the Steelers last spring after playing in the XFL; and Jarron Jones, who spent all of the 2020 season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, but faces charges stemming from his arrest in October that could jeopardize his playing career.
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It’s also very possible that the Steelers will use a premium draft pick on an offensive tackle in the 2021 Draft. The Steelers have not used a first-round pick at that position since 1996, when they selected Jamain Stephens out of North Carolina A&T). Sadly, the Stephens name was in the news last fall. In September, Stephens’ 20-year-old son Jamain Stephens Jr.—who was playing college football at the California University of Pennsylvania—passed away due to illness. Ten days later, the Stephens family revealed that the youngster died of a blood clot to the heart after testing positive for COVID-19.
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