PITTSBURGH -- An offensive line that lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey while the season was still in its infancy and has dealt with constant shuffling because of injuries and ineffectiveness at left tackle has finally stabilized.
Dare we say that it has also become a Steelers strength during their current three-game winning streak?
The Thanksgiving night game in Baltimore will provide a stern test as well as a marker for the unit that has allowed just one sack in the past two games. The line will deal with a hostile crowd and a hostile defense, and no player will face more of a challenge than left tackle Kelvin Beachum.
Suggs has the most sacks of Roethlisberger (14.5) of any active player, and he ranks among the NFL’s sack leaders this season.
“It’s going to be another great test,” Beachum said. “I need to keep him at bay.”
Beachum doesn’t exactly get a break when the Ravens flip their outside linebackers and he faces off against Elvis Dumervil.
Dumervil actually leads the Ravens with 9.5 sacks, one-half more than Suggs has registered through the first 11 games of the season.
Not that Beachum will be fazed by lining up against two of the best pass-rushers in the NFL or dealing with the difficulties of a silent snap count, something the Steelers will have to use throughout the night at noisy M&T Bank Stadium.
Beachum, after all, has locked down every challenge he has faced since making the Steelers as a seventh-round draft pick last season.
The 6-foot-3, 303-pounder has played every position along the offensive line, and he stepped in at left tackle after Mike Adams, taken almost 200 picks ahead of Beachum in the 2012 draft, faltered badly in trying to protect Roethlisberger’s blind side.
Beachum will make his eighth consecutive start at left tackle Thursday night and there is certainly enough of a sample size to gauge his play at the second-most important position on offense.
Just don’t ask Beachum to do it.
“You need to talk to the organization about that. I’m not here to judge my performance,” he said. “We’re trying to win games and I really don’t have time for that.”
Nor did he have time -- or the slightest inclination -- to weigh in on whether he is not only the Steelers’ left tackle of the present but also the future.
“Like I said, talk to the organization,” Beachum said.
Roethlisberger is probably the best person to talk to about Beachum since he has a vested interest in Beachum’s play. And the 10th-year veteran clearly trusts Beachum even though the former SMU star isn’t a prototypical left tackle.
“Last week in the Cleveland game they brought a corner blitz and he popped right out and picked it up like it was nothing,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s been playing to the level of expectations for me and a lot of people. Just really proud of the work he’s put in on and off the field because he’s a very cerebral player as well.”
Roethlisberger and the Steelers can only hope Beachum is as adept at standing up Suggs as he did me when I asked about both his play at left tackle and his future there.
I tried a different tact near the end of a brief interview on Tuesday, asking Beachum, who started 52 games at left tackle in college, what his preferred position is.
“You’ve got to talk to the organization,” he said.