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: Even
While the Steelers have talked about having a position battle for the starting right tackle job, that is evidently not set to materialize until training camp, after Matt Feiler took the vast majority of the snaps with the first-team offense through the spring in OTAs and minicamp.
From what I have been able to gather, second-year tackle Chukwuma Okorafor is the only other one who even got to work with the first-team group, even though Jerald Hawkins was mentioned by name in the running, and Zach Banner is lurking in the shadows as well.
After all, Feiler did start 10 games last year. It would make sense for him to get the most work there, and for him to be considered the frontrunner as well. So the fact that Okorafor has not gotten a lot of time working with the first-team offensive line yet is not surprising. It’s neither encouraging nor disappointing, so it really doesn’t move the needle.
Which is obviously why his stock is even as we enter the break ahead of training camp. The real work will start once they get settled in Latrobe and the pads come on. The preseason more than anything will be the determining factor regarding who wins the starting job.
Okorafor was a third-round pick last year, a name that really came out of left field. I’m not aware of anybody who covers the team in any capacity who had him on their radar, let alone had them drafting a tackle, at that time, on the second day of the draft.
But even though he came in with the expectation that would be raw, he performed better than they anticipated and served as the swing tackle all season—both when Marcus Gilbert was starting and after he was injured. He did start one game and performed at an acceptable level, giving up one sack to Von Miller.