Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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: Up
Basically, from where I’m sitting, I believe Chukwuma Okorafor is in the driver’s seat of his own destiny. He will be given the first crack at winning the starting right tackle job, and I also believe the Steelers want him to win that job and enter the starting lineup.
Whether he remains at right tackle or eventually moves to left tackle, Pittsburgh wants him playing, as they believed him to be capable of reaching that level when they drafted him in the third round in 2018 as a raw player who had only been familiar with football for about half a decade up to that point.
He does already have two starts under his belt, even if he was inactive for 15 games last season as Zach Banner assumed the gameday reserve tackle role because he was also favored in the tackle-eligible tight end role, in which he logged over 200 snaps.
With Ramon Foster’s retirement, Matt Feiler will most likely move to left guard—but if and only if one of the team’s young tackles shows himself to be capable of stepping up. Feiler could still find his way back to tackle, because Alejandro Villanueva is also a free agent after this season, but that also means we could see Okorafor at left tackle in 2021.
If that is to happen, it starts now, and starts with winning the right tackle job. He was injured last year, but is healthy now. That is part of the reason that he didn’t make the sort of progress that people were expecting to see last year.
It’s true that Okorafor was technically in a four-way competition to win the right tackle job last year with Feiler, Banner, and Jerald Hawkins. But he will be better prepared this time around, and also healthier. The nature of the offseason won’t be doing him any favors, but we can only work within the parameters of our reality.