As Pittsburgh Steelers training camp is set to begin, Behind the Steel Curtain takes a look at each position battle and how players at those positions are expected to perform.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers starting tackles are Kelvin Beachum on the left side and Marcus Gilbert on the right. The backups are Mike Adams and Guy Whimper, who have started some games in the NFL, so there is more depth on the outside of the Steelers offensive line than there is inside.
Emmanuel McCray is the only other tackle on the Steelers roster, but the rookie from Mississippi is a huge long shot to make club. The top four tackles are solid, however, and the Steelers like the potential of the group.
At 6-foot-3 and 306 pounds, third-year pro Beachum looks the least like a starting left tackle than any of the club's O-linemen. He isn't big and hulking like former second-round pick Adams, but Beachum is athletic and immensely technically sound. He was consistently rated highly by the Steelers after each game last season.
The same couldn't be said about Adams. The Steelers are still waiting for the 6-7, 323-pound third-year player from Ohio State. Adams has started 16 of 25 games in two seasons with the Steelers, including 10 of 15 last year.
However, much of Adams' time was spent as an additional blocker -- an extra tight end, basically -- as the Steelers tried to establish a strong running game. But his future is going to be as a tackle in the league, and the Steelers would like it to be as their left tackle. Adams has a lot of work to do to get to that point, but the Steelers are willing to give him a shot. Second-round picks don't get discarded too easily, and that won't happen to Adams anytime soon.
Speaking of second-round picks, Gilbert hasn't exactly lived up to his potential. The 6-6, 330-pounder from Florida was drafted by the Steelers in 2011, one year before the club took Adams in the second round as well. He has started 34 of 35 games at both left and right tackle, and he has secured the starting spot on the right side.
Gilbert started 13 games as a rookie in 2011 and was 5-for-5 in 2012 when a foot injury ended his season early. He was healthy last fall and opened every game at right tackle. Gilbert is big and athletic, but he was inconsistent and needs to sharpen his technique to improve his game. The Steelers are confident that Gilbert can become a top-flight tackle.
Whimper, dubbed by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin as "Abdullah,'' because his last name didn't seem to be appropriate for an NFL offensive lineman, is a serviceable backup. He's the most experienced player on the offensive line and should continue to maintain his same role this season.
The Steelers have an abundance of talent on both sides of the line this season, but their success could hinge on the performance of the offensive line. That group's success will be crucial to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's performance and ultimately how successful the team is this season.