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Film Room: Okorafor Making Himself Eligible

I do feel the need to start off by saying that this is not going to be the most informative film session we’ll be doing this season. I wanted to take a good look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ planned use of rookie tackle Chukwuma Okorafor in the tackle-eligible tight end role for this year, but the reality is that they only used him in that capacity on two snaps in their last game, and they won’t be doing it again this preseason.

But I want instead to talk more about the concept itself, because it is something that the team is definitely going to use. The coaching staff, perhaps especially Mike Munchak, likes to get the young offensive linemen on the field in this role to give them some live fire and something to work with.

That is how Mike Adams, Kelvin Beachum, and Chris Hubbard all started. Those are going to be the first snaps that Okorafor takes in a meaningful game. He will probably get some tackle-eligible work in the season opener.

The rookie’s first snap came early in the second quarter to open the team’s second drive from the 26. The Steelers used a popular run-heavy look they’ve been building on for the past two seasons, the 22 personnel grouping featuring one of the two tight ends as a lineman.

In the past, they’ve actually used this grouping to get Jesse James off the field, but considering he’s been the only healthy tight end, he was in the game on this occasion, as was fullback Roosevelt Nix. Both tight ends lined up off right tackle, Okorafor tight next to Marcus Gilbert. He was asked to flow to the second level, though he didn’t really end up picking anybody up as James Conner rushed for a three-yard gain.

The rookie would return to the field for one more snap with the starters, again on the opening play of a possession, this the third and final series for Ben Roethlisberger. Okorafor came off the left side this time, picking up a defender down the field, though the run only went for two yards. This looked like a three-tight end set.

So, as I said, there wasn’t a whole lot to go on. Just two plays, two runs that gained five yards between them. On average, I would expect the Steelers to run with a tackle-eligible probably about five times per game, depending on the game situation. If they’re running out the clock at the end, it could be as high as 15.

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