Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: T Chukwuma Okorafor
Stock Value: Down
There was optimism early in the offseason that Chukwuma Okorafor would be the Steelers’ right tackle of the future, starting this fall. He may still end up being the right tackle of the future, but it almost certainly will not be in 2019.
Through two games, Okorafor has not shown the second-year progression that was anticipated. He started both of the team’s preseason contests and has had struggles in both, including multiple holding penalties in the first game and a sack allowed early in the game working against Alex Okafor for the Kansas City Chiefs.
If this were a closer contest, I think Matt Feiler would actually be logging snaps at tackle during the preseason—he hasn’t played a single preseason snap at tackle since 2016, as a matter of fact, and that was only a handful.
Instead, the team has utilized the absences of Ramon Foster and David DeCastro to give Feiler work at guard with the first-team unit, which has given opportunities for the younger players like Okorafor and Zach Banner and Jerald Hawkins to receive more high-quality reps.
Out of the three of them, Banner has clearly benefited from them most, but even he has had his issues in the preseason, even if he had the strongest training camp. Still, that Okorafor hasn’t shown significant growth from his rookie season, when he was already ahead of the schedule many expected he would be on, should not be doom and gloom, either.
There’s still plenty of time for him to develop, and he should still get snaps this season as a tackle-eligible, as he did last season. With Jesse James gone and no other tight end on the roster demanding to be played as the number two, it’s likely that he will see even more snaps in this role than during his rookie year.
Still, one must hope that he shows better during the final two preseason games at his natural tackle position. He has made some mistakes, but from a snap-to-snap basis, he has been far from bad.