2020 Offseason Questions: Will Coaching Staff Explore Okorafor’s Position Flexibility If He Loses Starting Job?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: If Chukwuma Okorafor fails to win the starting right tackle job, will the coaching staff begin to examine his position flexibility?

When you draft a player within the first three rounds of the draft, you’re holding out hope that he will eventually show the capacity to develop into a starter. This year, the Steelers are giving 2018 third-round pick Chukwuma Okorafor a chance to start at right tackle—but they are giving the same shot to Zach Banner as well.

As a rookie, Okorafor served as the swing tackle during the 2018 season, and that was both when Marcus Gilbert was healthy and when Matt Feiler replaced him (Feiler was inactive when Gilbert was playing). But the young man was inactive for the 15 games he didn’t start last year, with Banner winning the swing tackle job.

With Ramon Foster retiring, Mike Tomlin said that Feiler will get the first reps at left guard, leaving plenty of snaps for Okorafor and Banner to work out the right tackle job and determine if at least one of them can handle it.

In the even that Okorafor loses that battle, he figures to go into the final year of his rookie deal in 2021 still looking to cement himself into a starting position and to identify his value. He could greatly increase his value by expanding his portfolio to include playing at guard, which is not exactly unheard of. Derwin Gray just did it last year after spending his entire football life playing tackle, and Okorafor is more athletic.

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