This is the fifth in a series that takes a post-training camp look at every position. Next up is offensive tackle.
Projected starters: Gilbert and Beachum. Both had good camps, Gilbert in particular. Adams never mounted a challenge to either player, and the 2012 second-round draft pick finds himself battling Whimper for the swing tackle position.
Projected number on 53-man roster: Four. Adams is safe and he should beat out Whimper for the job of No. 3 tackle. Whimper and Johnson are likely battling for one roster spot. Whimper has the edge in experience, and he has position flexibility. Johnson’s versatility is his biggest asset and the Steelers may want to develop the player on whom they used a fifth-round draft pick in May.
Rookie watch: Johnson lined up at tackle, center and guard in camp. The 6-foot-6, 297-pounder played center in the limited snaps he received in the preseason opener last Saturday night. Johnson struggled at times at left tackle in camp, and he may need a season to get stronger. Right now, I have him on my projected 53-man roster though he is going to have to show the coaches something in the final three preseason games.
What we learned in camp: Adams is a good run-blocker but his pass-blocking skills continue to lag behind what is clearly the strength of his game. That the Steelers have already settled on Gilbert and Beachum, a seventh-round pick in 2012, as their starters reflects a significant gap between their top two tackles and Adams. Gilbert, who dropped a little weight so he could move better, had a really good camp and established himself as the right tackle of the future as well as the present. The Steelers are expected to sign Gilbert, who is in the final year of his contract, to a long-term deal before the start of the regular season. Beachum is solid at left tackle and the Steelers can win with him protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's blind side.
He said it: “He’s obviously not the prototype, height -- he’s probably tired of listening to all that crap -- and the bottom line is results and we’ll see. I think you see the stuff he can do that a lot of tackles can’t do with his quickness and the way he can recover if he does get in trouble. He’s got a lot of great traits and his work ethic is big time. It’s very hard to outwork him.” – Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak on Beachum.