We knew coming in to the season that Kelvin Beachum was a good lineman to have in the toolbox, a backup who could step in competently anywhere along the line (except maybe for center.)
But did anybody see his 2013 season coming? I don't think even the Steelers coaches did.
Mike Adams was overwhelmed at LT in the first 4 games, surrendering sacks and pressures at an alarming rate, completely flummoxed by stunts and unable to handle speed on the outside.
In desperation mode, trying to salvage the season, the Steelers took a flyer on Levi Brown, a former #5 overall pick whom the Cardinals couldn't divest themselves of fast enough (take him, take him, you won't even have to pay him!).
When Brown went down without ever playing a down for the Steelers, and not wanting to upset the RT position by moving Gilbert, the Steelers finally turned to Swiss Army Kelvin.
The results were a revelation. Beachum, who played LT in college and considers it his preferred position, is one of those guys who supposedly doesn't have the size, speed, and strength to play his position in the NFL, but who just keeps working and learning until the coaches can no longer ignore him.
Beachum stabilized the LT position and was a huge factor in the Steelers 8-4 record in the final twelve weeks. He just may have allowed the Steelers to ignore the LT position in the upcoming 2014 Draft.
Other candidates for Steelers Underdog of the Year:
- Jason Worilds: his outstanding play in place of Lamarr Woodley on the right side of the offense turned him from an anticipated 2nd round bust who would be cast off at the end of his rookie contract, into a guy who will be sought after in free agency. Hope we don't lose him; but, CAUTION, he has an injury history as well.
- Jerricho Cotchery: largely forgotten as he backed up a top 3 of Wallace, Brown, and Sanders over the last few years, Cotchery played the Hines Ward role in 2013 with a career high 10 TDs and many other clutch catches.
Some might add Cameron Heyward to the list, but I refuse to because I have loved his play since his rookie year and I don't know why he didn't get the chance sooner.