The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will Chukwuma Okorafor start over Matt Feiler on Sunday, and does he have an opportunity to keep the swing tackle job?
It was something of a surprise when Chukwuma Okorafor was announced along with the starters during Sunday’s game in spite of the fact that Matt Feiler, who had started the previous four games in place of Marcus Gilbert, was among the active list.
Feiler suffered a pectoral injury late in the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars the week before, and he only finished the week of practice participating on a limited basis. He was deemed questionable to play, but he was healthy enough to dress, as evidenced by the fact that the other tackle on the roster, Zach Banner, was a healthy scratch.
The best guess is that Feiler was simply healthy enough to dress, but not healthy enough to start, similar to how Ben Roethlisberger dressed but did not start a game a few years ago as he was coming off an injury. Landry Jones would start and leave the game early with an injury himself, forcing Roethlisberger to play most of the game anyway.
It’s also possible that the Steelers preferred Okorafor’s athleticism in the matchup against Von Miller and the Denver Broncos’ other pass rushers. Or they simply decided to go with the player who was taking the first-team reps during the week. Or perhaps they were actually impressed with his growth and decided that he was ready for that role.
I’m sure Mike Tomlin will be asked about this today as we seek clarity as to who among three tackles will start for the Steelers in their next game against the Los Angeles Chargers, but I’m sure not many teams can say that they have three players they can be comfortable starting at one spot along the offensive line. It’s certainly a nice problem for them to have.