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The "very important" Kelvin Beachum is a must-sign player for the Steelers

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have some difficult decisions to make on signing some of their players who are in the final years of their contracts. One which shouldn't be ignored is left tackle Kelvin Beachum.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

By Dale Grdnic

PITTSBURGH -- Kelvin Beachum has been the Pittsburgh Steelers starting left offensive tackle the better part of the past two seasons, yet they still list the fourth-year player as a tackle and guard on the official roster.

"I know they do that, but I haven't taken any reps at guard the past couple years,'' Beachum said. "I don't know why they still do that, but I guess I could move there if they need me.''

That's just the type of player Beachum has been since the Steelers selected him in the seventh round during the 2012 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-3, 303-pound SMU product has been more than adaptable. He has 33 starts in 38 games, including five in seven games as a rookie.

"Beach has been a terrific player for us since his rookie year and a real good left tackle the past couple seasons,'' starting left guard Ramon Foster said.

He was a late pick in a draft where the Steelers took guard David DeCastro in the first round and Mike Adams in the second. DeCastro was injured in the preseason as a rookie and didn't return until the final four games that year. He started three at right guard and has been a fixture there ever since.

But Adams, who was expected to secure a starting tackle position from the outset, has made just 20 starts in 41 games and has been nothing more than an additional blocker lately. Beachum has been thriving during that time.

"Playing tackle is what I always did in college, so it's a dream come true to play it in the NFL,'' Beachum said. "And it's a huge obligation to protect our franchise quarterback, but I take it very seriously.''

Beachum played guard and tackle as a rookie, while injuries and attrition thinned the Steelers depth there. But he had no expectations about where the Steelers wanted him to play.

"I got drafted here, came in here and put my nose to the grindstone and started working,'' Beachum said. "That formula has been good for me. I played guard in games a couple times, but none the past two years. So, I guess it's been a couple years.''

Beachum was scheduled to make $1.5 million this season, the final year of his rookie contract, but thanks to the proven performer escalator he'll get paid $1.542 million. It's much-deserved, but when the Steelers finally renegotiate he'll get much more than that.

"I'm not thinking about that right now,'' Beachum said. "I'm just concentrating on playing football. That's my No. 1 concern going into training camp.''

The Steelers also must pay big bucks to starting defensive end Cam Heyward, who already makes nearly five times what Beachum pulls in. Sure, there's disparity between their salaries, but not their stature on the team.

"Beach is very important,'' Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "He's my left tackle. He's got my back, and I hope it's going to stay that way.''

Roethlisberger was sacked just 33 times last season, his lowest total when playing 16 games. The only times he had less were when he missed several games, and Beachum played a key role in keeping him upright.

"That's my job,'' Beachum said. "Really, it's all our jobs on the offensive line, but I can't let guys hit him from the blind side. We need to keep him healthy.''

And whether he's at tackle, or even guard, he has been able to accomplish that goal, as Roethlisberger has missed only a handful of snaps during Beachum's time at left tackle the past two seasons.