Steelers GM: Kelvin Beachum stabilized offensive line


INDIANAPOLIS -- Halfway through last season, Ben Roethlisberger was on pace to shatter the Pittsburgh Steelers' single-season record with 32 sacks absorbed.

After moving to a no-huddle offense, though, the Steelers quarterback was sacked just 11 times in the final eight games.

Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert cited Kelvin Beachum as a "huge" reason for the offensive line's improved play down the stretch.

Originally drafted in the seventh round as a swing lineman capable of filling in at multiple positions, Beachum is perhaps the NFL's smallest blindside protector at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds.

Despite that slight build, Beachum has proven to be a better pass protector than second-round draft picks Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert.

Here's what else we learned from Colbert on Thursday:

» Colbert believes this year's draft class is the deepest he's seen, but it's also the most immature class he's witnessed in his 30 seasons working in football.

» Asked about the NFL's trend away from early-round running backs, Colbert cited college football's spread offenses. Running backs have been relegated to bit players before they enter the league. It's hard to project 15-20 carries per game for a back who only touched the ball a dozen times each game as a situational player in college.

» When Colbert evaluates college quarterbacks, he pays special attention to third downs and the two-minute drill. He wants to know how they perform in "big moments, challenging moments."

» Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's defense has long been regarded as one of the most challenging for rookies to make an instant impact. Colbert attributed a good portion of that to the "tough transition" college defense ends have in moving to outside linebacker in LeBeau's 3-4 scheme.

On the latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast," the guys speculate on big names who could be cut, then talk offseason forecasts for the Packers and Raiders.