The 2019 regular season certainly was an uneventful one for second-year Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Chukwuma Okorafor as the former third-round draft pick out of Western Michigan dressed for all of three games during the year and played just 73 total snaps in just one contest. With his second season now behind him, Okorafor recently let it be known that he’s unsure what the Steelers plans are for him in 2020.
“I have no idea yet where I stand in terms of whatever,” Okorafor reportedly said this past Monday, according to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We will see. It’s a long, long offseason, so we will see how everything plays out.”
Heading into the Steelers 2019 training camp it appeared as though Okorafor was destined to at least serve as a backup swing tackle and extra blocking tight end throughout the regular season, much like he did a good portion of his rookie season. However, by the time Week 1 of the regular season rolled around, Okorafor was on the Steelers inactive list and he watched Zach Banner dress as the backup tackle and extra blocking tight end behind starters Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler.
While Okorafor did dress for the Steelers Week 6 and Week 9 games, it was only due to the team dealing with numerous injured players. He failed to play a single snap in either of those two contests. In Week 10, however, Okorafor dressed and starred at right tackle against the Los Angeles Rams due to the team wanting Feiler to play at left guard in place of concussed starter Ramon Foster.
Okorafor’s start against the Rams wasn’t a fantastic showing by the young tackle as he allowed a sack, a quarterback hit and two pressures during the game. While the Steelers did manage to beat the Rams with Okorafor at right tackle, the young player returned to the inactive list the following week and never dressed for another game the remainder of the season.
It’s not surprising that Okorafor isn’t sure where he stands with the Steelers as he heads into the offseason. The Steelers probably aren’t quite sure what’s in store for Okorafor in 2020, either, as they first have few decisions to make regarding two of their other offensive linemen, Foster and B.J. Finney, early in the offseason. If Foster is jettisoned this offseason and Finney isn’t re-signed, Feiler, who should be back in 2020 on a restricted free agent tender, might be kicked from right tackle to left guard.
Should Feiler ultimately wind up being moved to left guard as a result of offseason shuffling, Okorafor and Banner might do battle throughout the summer to be the team’s new starting right tackle.
While Okorafor has now been in the NFL for two full seasons, he’s still just 22 years old and won’t turn 23 until after the team’s 2020 training camp gets underway. And while Okorafor ultimately played nearly half the amount of snaps in 2019 that he played during his 2018 rookie season, he made it clear this past week that he feels that he’s shown improvement since he first entered the NFL.
“Being here now and finishing up my second year, you kind of just look at it from, from last year’s training camp and last year’s preseason to now, I for sure see myself having improved,” Okorafor said, according to Adamski.
As the offseason progresses, we should get more clues as what might be in store for Okorafor in 2020 and if indeed he’ll have a shot to compete for a starting spot.