Call it a smokescreen. Maybe an insurance policy. Or perhaps it's just a snapshot statement in time. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin can't be serious about starting Kelvin Beachum at center Monday when the Steelers take on the Cincinnati Bengals' Anti-Heaven Front Seven.
Jurell Casey gave him the beating of his pro career in Week 1. Casey is an amateur in comparison to All Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
Certainly, neither Mike Tomlin, nor offensive coordinator Todd Haley nor offensive line coach Jack Bicknell needs a punk like me pointing that out. They know it. They have to.
Tomlin's tacit statement that Beachum will start against the Bengals ("as of right now") should be seen more as "we're going to work newly signed Fernando Velasco until he passes out, then we're going to attach electronic nodes to his head and have him learn subliminally as he sleeps. Then we'll throw a bucket of water on him, get him up and work him some more.
Desperate times call for desperate centers.
Velasco, out of a job and with no direct experience working for Tomlin, Haley or Bicknell, will be boiling the extra strength coffee in an effort to get up to speed and, hopefully, serve as a passable center in Monday night's game. Beachum could crush all the coffee Dunkin makes and not have the level of skill required to stop Atkins, or Domata Peko. As if few could anyway. But with Velasco, you have experience in the trenches that didn't result solely in a savage beating at the hands of a lesser-accomplished defensive lineman. He's used to making adjustments and calls at the line.
Maybe better yet, he wasn't playing tight end last week.
That brings up another issue, though. The Steelers actually need Beachum at tight end. It's not as if the defensive ends and edge linebackers of the Bengals have no ability in their own right. Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are both accomplished players, and the Steelers know full well what James Harrison can do.
In fact, the only ideal less appealing for the Steelers right now than starting Beachum at center is having David Paulson on the strong side on running downs. They drafted a multi-purpose offensive lineman when they took Beachum in the seventh round. So far in 2013, it seems Kelvin Beachum is both the cause of, and the solution to, the Steelers' protection problems.
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