With the annual Hall of Fame game now behind us we’ll now prepare for 64 preseason games to take place over the course of the next month. However, ahead of this week’s 16 exhibition games getting underway the ESPN.com NFL Nation reporters recently submitted their best guesses as to the most important competitions forthcoming for all 32 teams over the course of the next month. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jeremy Fowler chose to go with the starting right tackle battle between Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor. Below is what he wrote about that key battle.
Matt Feiler has the inside track after 10 starts a year ago and a strong training camp. But Chukwuma Okorafor turns 22 just before the first preseason game and has excellent feet, which helps offset the occasional camp struggle. Expect the Steelers to mix lineups throughout August to maximize competition between the two.
Fowler choosing the battle between Feiler and Okorafor is certainly a warranted choice. However, according to the training camp practice reports submitted so far by our very own Alex Kozora, Feiler is well out in front of the second-year Okorafor and thus the latter will certainly have his work cut out for him over the course of the next four weeks.
Feiler already has a nice upper-hand in the battle when it comes to being game-experienced at the right tackle spot as he started 10 games at the position last season in place of an inured Marcus Gilbert. While Feiler’s play last season at right tackle certainly can’t be classified as All-Pro caliber, it was more than good enough. Okorafor’s lone start last season in place of a banged up Feiler went as good as could have been expected. However, he was given some help throughout that contest against the Denver Broncos and especially when forced to face off against premier NFL pass rusher Von Miller.
Should Okorafor wind up losing out to Feiler this summer, he’ll still likely see a few snaps per game as an extra blocker/tight end just as he did during his rookie season. Additionally, Okorafor will likely wind up being the Steelers swing tackle for the 2019 season should he not beat out Feiler for the starting right tackle job.
In the upcoming Steelers preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, look for Feiler to get the start at right tackle and then be relived by Okorafor, who also might get some snaps during that contest at the left tackle spot. Feiler might get moved around as well throughout the preseason as he’s likely to be asked to play some at both guard spots over the course of the next month.
While not listed by Fowler as his first choice, the Steelers forthcoming preseason battle between backup quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph will certainly be one to pay very close attention to as well.