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Steelers' versatile Beachum is do-it-all lineman

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 11:12 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum plays against the Chiefs on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, at Heinz Field.

On Monday, Kelvin Beachum stood near his locker answering a volley of questions about his versatility. At times, he was evasive as he opted to avoid characterizing his fluid role on the Steelers' oft-maligned offensive line.

Beachum has bounced up and down the line of scrimmage like a vagabond. He has no permanent home in the trenches where he's played center, guard and tackle.

A seventh-round pick out of SMU in 2012, Beachum is a natural left tackle, but he's had to adapt to secure a job. He started at right tackle the final five games last season after Mike Adams suffered an ankle injury.

Then, Saturday night against Kansas City, the 6-foot-3, 303-pound Beachum was tossed into the game at tight end in short-yardage situations.

“I liked what Beachum did as an eligible receiver,” coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday.

All that's left for Beachum to do is a catch a pass.

“We work with the tight ends a lot when I'm at tackle, so it's transferable to what I'm doing,” the 24-year-old said. “Whether it's play-action or in the run game, you have to understand what they're doing.

“With me going to tight end helped out the team, and that's what I'm here for. It was a more spacious environment at tight end.”

Beachum, though, knows his limitations. Or does he?

“Wherever they tell me to go, that's where I go,” he said.

Beachum, it seems, has the mental capacity and aptitude to handle a versatile role. Besides, he has a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in liberal studies.

“He's an athletic guy who has worked his butt off, and the coaches are finding away to get him on the field,” guard Ramon Foster said. “He's smart enough to handle the responsibilities at tight end.”

The Steelers began preparing Beachum at tight end last week. So, he wasn't surprised to get the call against the Chiefs.

“I want to lock into a position, but that's not my role right now,” he said. “My role is to be an asset to the team in whatever facet they need me. Whenever my time comes to play, I need to maximize it whether it's at guard, tackle or tight end.”

“Right now, I'm worried about making the team and finding a way to get on the field. I'll be comfortable wherever they put me.”

At SMU, Beachum started 52 consecutive games at left tackle. He's accustomed to protecting the quarterback's blind side, and he's expected to back up Adams — who moved to left tackle during second week of training camp at St. Vincent — and right tackle Marcus Gilbert.

“Sometimes, you're asked to do things out of the norm,” he said. “I have to be flexible and I have to adapt.

“I've caught a couple passes in practice before. I was a tackle eligible in college, so we played around with throwing me the ball in college but not in a game situation because I was too busy protecting the blind side.”

Of course, the Steelers have had their problems with injuries at tight end. Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth are out indefinitely with injuries and David Johnson returned to action for the first time since reconstructive knee surgery more than a year ago.

“Beachum is willing to do anything, and that's the kind of person he is,” guard David DeCastro said. “He's a smart player who makes the most of what he's got.”

Beachum has come a long way since the early days of last year's training camp. He was an error-prone rookie whom Tomlin chided after a string of missed blocks or blown assignments.

However, Beachum developed a hard exterior in high school in Mexia, Texas.

“I got a phrase, ‘Trust God and embrace adversity,' so I take the criticism and keep moving,” he said. “Whether it's good or bad, I take it as constructive criticism. I use it as a way to get better. It wasn't so much as (Tomlin) was bashing me as a person, but challenging me to play to a higher standard.”

Now, Tomlin trusts Beachum to play every position on the offensive line, including tight end.

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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