I have a confession to make.
I’ve been wanting to write this article for several weeks. I thought my own personal bias about the issue may have clouded my judgment, but with rumblings of this move as a possibility from various places around the NFL, I now felt I was safe to proceed. So what is my confession?
From 2013 to 2015, Kelvin Beachum was my favorite player.
I was going to get myself a Beachum jersey in 2014 but just didn’t have the means to pull the trigger. Once he was injured in 2015, it seemed like his time with the Steelers was over and I was glad I didn’t make the investment. But it didn’t stop me from appreciating my favorite player and being sad to see him go.
So what was it about Kelvin Beachum that I liked so much? What wasn’t there to like? He was the 248th pick in the NFL draft, had great feet for a big guy, looked like he was about 15 years old, was a high-integrity player, and was willing to work harder than most in order to make it in the NFL.
After suffering a season-ending knee injury six games into the 2015, Kelvin Beachum lost his starting left tackle spot on the Steelers to Alejandro Villanueva. A high commodity on the open market, Beachum signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars and helped earn the Steelers a third-round compensatory draft pick in 2017. In fact, I outlined how the Steelers comp pick in the draft originated in 2004 as Beachum himself was a seventh-round compensatory pick.
After a season in Jacksonville, four years with the New York Jets, and starting all 16 games in 2020 for the Arizona Cardinals, Beachum is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the league year kicks off on March 17.
So should Steelers take a flyer on the soon-to-be 32-year-old tackle? There are several factors involved which could lead to a Beachum reunion. Let’s break them down one by one:
Although he started 16 games for Arizona last season, Beachum only played for the league minimum for the Cardinals. Showing he can still get the job done, Beachum may earn more on the open market this offseason. Pro Football Focus projected Beachum to land with the Steelers in 2021 for one year at $4.5 million. While I don’t see the Steelers paying that much for one season, I don’t know if Beachum would command more than $6 million for two seasons. What would be even better for the Steelers would be a contract more like the one signed by Stefen Wiseniewski last year at two years for $2.85 million, but that might be a little too cheap to put Beachum back into the Black & Gold.
Right now, the Steelers only have one tackle from the 2020 season was under contract for 2021. Chukwuma Okorafor is the last tackle standing for the Steelers as Zach Banner, Jerald Hawkins, and Alejandro Villanueva are all set to become free agents. While it is likely Banner signs back with the Steelers, having another quality tackle in the mix would only be better for the Steelers. If Banner, Okorafor, and Beachum were the three main tackles going into 2021, it very well could be a “three dogs, two bones scenario” when it comes to who could grab the starting positions. This is also assuming the Steelers don’t add to the position in the 2021 NFL draft.
The biggest reason one could see Beachum back with the Steelers is because of his familiarity. Not only did he play in Pittsburgh for four years, newly promoted offensive line coach Adrian Klemm was Beachum’s college coach at Southern Methodist University. Beachum has already showed his support for Klemm and his hiring.
Circa ‘09. How time flies!! Words cannot describe how elated I am for AK!!! Dude has been in my corner since the day we met. Excited to see him thrive.— Kelvin Beachum (@KelvinBeachumJr) February 3, 2021
One of the most important people in my journey as a player and a man. I owe him a lot. pic.twitter.com/lH40pwe0d8
Here’s a knock for this not being a match made in heaven. Beachum does turn 32 this offseason and is only slightly younger than Steelers current left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Both players have been around so long the Steelers have played 132 games since somebody other than Beachum or Villanueva started at left tackle. Normally the Steelers don’t bring in a free agent of this age, but since it is a “bringing back” issue the possibility is still there.
The final question has to be if Kelvin Beachum really helps the Steelers along the offensive line with the skill he brings to the position. Looking at Pro Football Focus’ rankings of offensive tackles, Beachum comes in number 46 behind Steelers current left tackle Alejandro Villanueva at number 28. Although he’s 18 spots behind Villanueva, he is 24 spots ahead of Chuks Okorafor who would be the Steelers starting left tackle next season simply by default at this point.
So what do you think? Should the Steelers kick the tires on a Kelvin Beachum return? What would the price need to be? Would Beachum be in line to compete for a starting position? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.