PITTSBURGH -- Kelvin Beachum returned to his position at left tackle with the Steelers this week after missing his first game of the season Sunday with a knee injury.
The fact that left tackle remains Beachum's position was apparent again Thursday: He's focused, technically sound, and reliable.
What he doesn't have is Mike Adams' size, ability to come off the ball and brutalize opposing linemen in the run game, or of course Adams' sack-free performance against the Dolphins.
So how will the Steelers move forward at this critical position?
With an efficient-but-small tackle or the vexing giant?
"I think that's why we're playing the games," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. "And I think that's a big reason why Beach, when the early change was made and he ended up over there, was left him there and we didn't mess with him, even though he might've been a good option at center when we had issues there, or a good option at other spots, guard when we had a couple issues there.
"But we wanted to leave him there and let him get settled in and see how good he could be. Now, unfortunately he got hurt, but he's been practicing some so we'll see here as the week goes on."
According to Pro Football Focus, these are the pass-protection stats of each:
* Beachum, 661 snaps, 6 sacks, 5 QB hits, 19 QB hurries.
* Adams, 457 snaps, 4 sacks, 8 QB hits, 24 QB hurries.
So the job is Beachum's to lose.
"He earned the right to be in there right now because he played at a pretty high level for us while he was in there against good competition," Haley said. "I think he's earned every right, as much as anyone else has, to be in there playing."
BAD MOOD BEN
Ben Roethlisberger didn't find humor in some of the reporting after Sunday's game that painted him as having been upset with Haley. So when Roethlisberger met the media on Sunday, Roethlisberger was a bit terse, even with some of his "boys."
Q: Is it easy to keep the guys motivated?
BR: "Um, yeah. I mean, I'm motivated to win. I'm assuming you would have to ask everyone else in here what their motivation is. (Pause) I'm sure that'll get taken out of context, too. Um, I'm motivated to play as hard as I can. I'm sure everyone else is."
Q: Ben, are you (ticked) off at the media?
BR: "Not at all."
The flu bug is sweeping through the Cincinnati locker room. MLB Vontaze Burfict, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and OLB James Harrison all missed Thursday's practice because of illness. They joined cornerback Terence Newman (knee) on the sidelines.
Missing practice for the Steelers were DE Brett Keisel (foot), NT Steve McLendon (ankle) and SS Troy Polamalu (shoulder), who each missed their second practice of the week. WR Emmanuel Sanders (foot) was limited Thursday.
Haley on the progress being made by the Steelers' offense:
"What's important to me and what gives me hope for this group as we go forward is that we've made progress as the year's gone on, and that hadn't been without obstacles and injuries and lineup changes, significant lineup changes. So we've been able to overcome a bunch of that and continued to make progress in most areas. It hadn't translated to wins, which is what this is all about, obviously, but I think there's been enough increase in production in most areas to feel good about what the guys are doing. The sack number's gone down, the turnover number's gone significantly down. I think in the second half of the season we've turned it over twice. We've got to keep going in that direction.
"The run game has continued to look improved, although we haven't been able to get into a game where we hand it off 25-30 times. Last game if we get a couple things done, don't run into the penalty situation, it might be one of those games where you get a couple scores up and you're able to pound the defense at home in bad weather.
"I just think that a lot of it is these guys continuing to work, getting growth from guys like Beach, getting Heath Miller back closer to himself, getting a Matt Spaeth back, a lot of different factors have played into it. But one thing stayed the same: These guys continued to work and get better, and I think it's showing, week in and week out, as we go forward."