Now that the 2019 season is over, with a team other than ours having been crowned champion and there being much work to do to return to that status, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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: OT Chukwuma Okorafor
Stock Value: Down
After hitting up Zach Banner yesterday, it seemed appropriate to go back and talk about Chukwuma Okorafor next, and admittedly, this one was a bit difficult for me to determine. On the one hand, he was passed up as the game-day swing tackle and tackle-eligible by Banner. On the other hand, when it came time fore somebody to start a game at tackle, that job was given to Okorafor.
Ultimately, I went this a ‘stock down’ evaluation, largely because he went from dressing for 13 games during his rookie season as an unpolished player to only dressing for one a year ago. It’s true that Banner may be more suited to the tackle-eligible role to give him the nod, and the fact is they needed the tackle-eligible last year because of the tight end situation, but the fact remains that they trust Banner to play if he has to.
That should set up an interesting training camp this year, I think, between the two young tackles, Banner going into his fourth season and Okorafor in his third. At this point, it’s hard to say who has the greater upside. Banner is frankly massive, with NFL bloodlines and tangible success, whereas Okorafor is more athletic and has more growing to do.
It’s not unreasonable that he wouldn’t be playing at a Pro Bowl level by his second season, considering that he only began playing football something like seven or so years ago. He grew up in Africa and wasn’t even exposed to the game until he was a teenager.
But this is the season wherein, I think, he has to make that jump, especially with a possible changing of the guard coming, literally. Ramon Foster is either in his last season or has already played his last in Pittsburgh.
If the Steelers really feel good enough about Okorafor and Banner, one of them could end up starting at right tackle in 2020 by moving Matt Feiler to left guard. He has spent more time in the summers in Pittsburgh playing guard than tackle, and he has started two games at guard as well.