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: T Chukwuma Okorafor
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Mike Tomlin said that the Steelers’ first offensive line combination of training camp is going to include Matt Feiler at left guard, which means Okorafor and Zach Banner will be afforded an early opportunity to take hold of that job.
While we haven’t gotten the chance to hear a lot about the football aspects of this football season—we’ve certainly gotten a few earsful of everything else—one thing that we have heard a few different times going back to February or at least March is the idea that Matt Feiler could move over to left guard.
This was cemented as a possibility with the retirement of Ramon Foster, which no doubt the team was aware would be coming before it happened. Perhaps even knew it was a possibility during the 2019 season, which could have been one reason they looked at Feiler at left guard for one game.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that the more time Feiler spends there, the more time Okorafor spends with the starters working at right tackle, and the more chances he gets to show that he is capable of being a starter.
Now, that doesn’t guarantee anything, for either himself or for Banner, nor does it guarantee that one of them will start rather than Feiler staying there. After all, Feiler didn’t spend much time there last year in the offseason, in part to give others the opportunity to compete for the job.
With a starting job at left guard open, though, it obviously changes things drastically. It can still be possible that Feiler is the best starting right tackle, but if he is also the best starting left guard, and Okorafor or Banner show up at right tackle, that could be the lineup.
Entering the offseason with this look may or may not prove to be significant, but I choose to think it is at least in part a reflection of their desires. They would love for one of their young tackles to show this offseason that they can start there, and that Feiler can stay inside. So this is perhaps a positive early sign.