It was as if Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was made of ham.
The Steelers lost center Maurkice Pouncey on the eighth play from scrimmage in Week 1 vs. the Tennessee Titans last year. Utility offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum started the game in the team's jumbo package as the third tight end, then moved to center to fill in for Pouncey. All of this was after a rookie season in which Beachum played tackle but spent the off-season allegedly learning both guard positions.
Jack of all trades, master of none was probably the mildest way to describe Beachum's performance in that game. Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey made a name for himself both in pass rushing and run-defense, obliterating the thin candy shell of the Steelers' offensive performance in that game. Sure, Pouncey was out, and no one knew better than Casey that it wasn't the Titans' problem.
He's still probably their best defensive player and a leading candidate in the players we'd want from the Titans to switch jerseys for this game.
That said, we're not writing this column without pointing out the excellent fit of rookie offensive tackle Taylor Lewan. We're of the belief the Steelers would have been hard-pressed to pass on Lewan had he fallen to the 15th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. We didn't think there was a chance he would, but he would have been a perfect fit in the Steelers' inside and outside zone-running scheme. While it was somewhat head-scratching on draft day when the Titans called his name, his play so far this season is justifying the selection.
The Titans are largely limited due to substandard play from the quarterback position. This has diminished the value of wide receivers Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright (54th and 55th in the NFL in Football Outsiders' Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), but both are young and improving players. Tight end Delanie Walker has probably been a larger aspect of the Titans' offense than they'd want him to be, but he's a solid underneath option for young quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
There's a load of potential trailing rookie running back Bishop Sankey, and it won't be long until he makes a big impact on a game - Monday, perhaps. Along with him, veteran Michael Roos - a player we mentioned as a possible free-agency target of the Steelers in 2015 - is still playing at an above-the-line level.
Overall, it's a toss-up right now between Casey and Lewan. We like the idea of having Casey in for sub-packages and sets in which both he and Cameron Heyward can be used. Ultimately, though, we like the idea of Lewan taking over this team's left tackle position in the future and moving Beachum inside, giving the Steelers easily the most athletic offensive line in the NFL.