While congratulations are deserved by multiple players in Sunday afternoon's emotional victory, one player seems to get lost in the shuffle.
The heartfelt exchange between Charlie Batch and Ben Roethlisberger immediately upon the referee's signal of a successful field goal, spoke volumes to the importance of this game and this team, to these players.
The odds were more than stacked against the Steelers, Pittsburgh was buried in them. The Steelers were already without the top two quarterbacks from the team's opening day roster; and the third-stringer Batch, had done little to evoke confidence in even the most, die-hard fan. Toss in the loss of the team's starting left outside linebacker, LaMarr Woodley, and its second starting right tackle in Mike Adams; and the Terrible Towels began to twirl a bit slower.
Then, in the early moments of week 13, the Steelers suffered another setback, with the injury to Ike Taylor. On paper, the Steelers had lost this game before they ever got off the buses.
The tears on Roethlisberger's towel, stood as evidence of the physical and emotional investments made by Batch. The often attacked Cortez Allen stepped up and proved that "The Standard is still the Standard". Jonathan Dwyer played like a starting running back, while the Steelers deactivated their long time starter Rashard Mendenhall. Jason Worilds was solid in his support of Woodley. James Harrison looked like a younger version of himself, and Ziggy Hood looked like a much wiser version of himself. Every participant deserves a pat on the back for their contributions in a hard fought, much needed victory; especially, Kelvin Beachum.
Beachum, one of the Steelers' four seventh-round draft picks in 2012, impressed coaches with his football intelligence. While his 6-foot-3, 300 pound frame doesn't exactly translate into an NFL right tackle, this collegiate tackle was seen as a guard, or center project. While his potential impressed coaches in the classroom, his work ethic is what earned their respect.
Even from his days at SMU, Beachum has deservedly earned a reputation for an exceptional work ethic. He stays hours after practice has concluded, constantly watching tape and working on his technique. His work ethic, combined with his open mind towards positional flexibility, allowed the coaches to feel confident enough to release long-tenured veteran, Trai Essex. However, Beachum was never intended to play at either tackle spot. He would be an inside blocker, only.
When Adams went down with a leg injury, and was subsequently ruled out of the week 13 game in Baltimore; everything changed. The situation had been deemed so dire, that Maurkice Pouncey, an all pro center, was moved to guard; allowing Doug Legursky, who has played less than spectacularly at guard, to play center. An injured Willie Colon was pushed all week, in hopes he would return; but his pain refused to comply. Because of the shortage of bodies, Beachum was forced into his first NFL start at right tackle.
While the Ravens' pass rush relies heavily on the blitz, and not as much on their defensive line; Beachum played admirably at a position that no one wanted to see him play; in a game no one wanted to see him in. While the Ravens generated pressure at times, little mention was made by the television broadcasters of a rookie right tackle looking overwhelmed in his first start.
Beachum has had quite a journey from his birthplace of Mexia, TX, to the three rivers of Pittsburgh, PA; but when his number was called upon in Baltimore, MD, he did all anyone could ask of him. Because of his performance, Charlie Batch found plenty of time to lead the team to an eventual victory; and because of his relentless desire to improve himself every single day, Beachum has proven that he belongs on this roster.
Not many seventh-round draft picks get to say that they played a significant part in the resurrection of his team's post-season aspirations. Today, with his head held high; Kelvin Beachum can.