It had been less than 24 hours since the 2013 season had ended and Kelvin Beachum sat by himself in the player's lounge just off the Steelers locker room watching game film.
He didn't have to. It wasn't required, wasn't part of the postseason wrap-up for the players. But to get to where he wants to be, he knew it was a step in the right direction, using every opportunity to evaluate his own play.
"I want to be great. Simply put," said Beachum. "I don't want to just be a guy wearing a jersey. I don't want to just be a Steeler who has come through here. I want to make an impact. I want to be influential."
Beachum hit the weight room after watching film, and did so the next day as well, and so on. And it will continue as the offseason keeps rolling along. It's typical of the approach he takes to a game he loves playing.
"The only way I know is to put your nose to the grindstone and work your butt off," said Beachum. "Sometimes my wife and coaches have to tell me to get out of the building and come home. I want to be special and the only way to be is to work hard. That's all I know, is to work. I enjoy it. I love being here. I have a passion for it. I wouldn't want it any other way."
It's been quite a year for Beachum and he wouldn't have gotten to where he is had it not been for that work ethic. He opened the season starting against the Tennessee Titans in a blocking tight end role, and then played center when Maurkice Pouncey was injured in that game. He rotated in when needed at right and left tackle for a few weeks, and then took snaps at guard for an injured Ramon Foster against Minnesota.
Beachum took over as the starting left tackle for a struggling Mike Adams against the New York Jets, a role he would not vacate except when he couldn't go against Miami because of an injury.
After a preseason of not knowing what his role would be, ready to be the jack of all trades on the line, he settled in nicely at left tackle but still knows he has a lot of work ahead of him, knowing that it's not written in stone yet that it's his job moving forward.
"I want to find ways to better my knowledge as an offensive lineman, reading defenses better, get stronger in the weight room, get in better shape," said Beachum. "I just want to find ways to become a better football player. The better player I am, the better offensive lineman I am, the more I can contribute to the line, the better the line is, and the better the team is.
"I have a long ways to go. I have a lot of improvement. This offseason is devoted to becoming better. As I get better who is to say I don't solidify (left tackle), but I have to continue to get better as an offensive lineman."
Beachum is excited about what the future holds. He would welcome the role of being the starting left tackle, simply stating "I love left tackle." But entering his third season he knows that things can change on a dime and he is ready and willing to do whatever Coach Mike Tomlin asks of him.
"I am a team player," said Beachum. "Wherever I can play, wherever the coaches feel I suit this team best, I am willing to play. I am willing to put my pride, ego behind and put the team first. Wherever they put me I am willing to do whatever it takes at that position and accept the challenge."
And you get the feeling with his approach and attitude, whatever the challenge is he is going to be great at it.
Beachum weighed in on a few other things, from his improvement at left tackle to the 2013 season in general:
- On his improvement at left tackle since the start of the season: "It's knowledge. Overall just seeing the defense, understanding what a defense can give me based off of safety rotation, based off defensive alignment. Just knowledge of what can happen."
- On what playing left tackle is about: "It's pressure, but it's what you put on yourself. I enjoy the pressure. I enjoy being on an island, it all being left up to me sometimes. I enjoy protecting Ben's (Roethlisberger) blindside. I enjoy the scrutiny that comes with it because I don't care what anybody has to say. This is my job to protect him and I take it to heart. I have my own convictions and that is what matters. I try to stay steady, poised and keep to myself and know it's a mental game all of the time."
- On working at center during the offseason and his short time playing it: "I just wanted to be ready whenever my number was called. I took the coaching, the opportunity to learn as a new challenge. It made me a better football player understanding what the calls are at the center position. If I don't hear the line call I can look at the defense and know where to go without hearing the calls."
- Looking back at the 2013 season: "It's been an up and down season. A lot to think about, there will be a lot to reflect on. I found a way to bounce back and get the job done in the face of adversity and miserable circumstances. We put ourselves in a hole, dug it ourselves. Fought back to .500 but not good enough to take it over the hump like we needed to."