The Pittsburgh Steelers went back to head coach Mike Tomlin's lab in the middle of the Week 3 loss to the Chicago Bears, experimenting with rotations at both tackle spots. While it's too early for conclusive results, perhaps the team should take their test a step further.
Kelvin Beachum occasionally spelled both Mike Adams at left tackle, and Marcus Gilbert on the right side. Neither Adams nor Gilbert have been exactly inspiring in the early stages of the season, leaving ample room for Beachum to squeeze his way into an eventual starting spot should his play demand a higher snap count. While Beachum may prove himself worthy to replace a starter, he can only replace one.
Any optimism over an emerging Beachum is instantly negated by reminder of the fact whomever he does not replace will still be on the field in their usual spot. Beachum beating Adams doesn't instantly make Gilbert better by default. It doesn't work the other way, either.
Adams was actually the team's right tackle through most of the off-season, and Gilbert was slated to play on the left. Adams got some work during the preseason of his rookie year on the left side behind Max Starks, but found himself soon playing right tackle when Gilbert suffered a season-ending injury; and he actually played quite well on the right. His pass protection was still a work in progress, but his run blocking played a major part in Jonathan Dwyer's 122 yard rushing performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7 of 2012.
Toward the end of training camp, the team decided to switch Adams and Gilbert. Now, three weeks into the season, the team has decided something needs to change. Perhaps they need to try undoing their eleventh hour switcheroo.
If the team opened up their current tackle rotation to include snaps for Gilbert at left tackle and Adams on the right, then they would get a better idea of what their options actually are. If Beachum is an improvement over Adams at left tackle, Adams could still be an improvement over Gilbert on the right. Beachum may end up being the best right tackle on the team, but Gilbert has technically been the better pass protector over Adams and could be the better choice to guard Ben Roethlisberger's blindside.
Against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Steelers will most likely use a rotation similar to the one implemented during the Bears game, because of the short-week due to the game being played in London, England. However, if the team still feels need to continue rotation of tackles following the game, preparing Adams and Gilbert for snaps on both sides would be a good project for the following bye week.
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