Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: T Chukwuma Okorafor
Stock Value: Up
I want to clarify first and foremost, because people clicking on this might think otherwise, that this specific stock watch installment is not one based on a recent event for Chukwuma Okorafor. We haven’t gotten any reports yet about how the offensive linemen are looking or where they’re working, so this is a longitudinal report instead.
And that longitudinal report figures to project, at some point, to being a starter in the future, perhaps as early as September. The Steelers have already made it very clear that the second-year tackle will be right in the mix to start at right tackle, working in concert and competition with Matt Feiler and Jerald Hawkins, some of their other young tackles.
A relatively unknown name when he was made a third-round pick last year, Okorafor almost immediately became a more important name after Hawkins suffered an injury in OTAs that ended his season prematurely.
Okorafor did, in fact, serve as the swing tackle all year for the exception of the one game he started, but when Marcus Gilbert was injured, Feiler was chosen to start over him. Feiler was a healthy scratch when Gilbert was dressing and playing.
Even if Okorafor doesn’t win the starting job, I get the feeling they are going to get him involved, perhaps beyond just as a tackle-eligible. They may even rotate him in, as they did with Kelvin Beachum in 2013 before he replaced Mike Adams as the starting left tackle.
Still, I do think I like Okorafor’s chances. Feiler is in his sixth NFL offseason. It’s hard to imagine he’s going to keep growing significantly. He is who he is at this point. Okorafor is still relatively new to even playing football, and he already played better than most thought he would as a rookie.