Right Tackle Battle May Not Be Determined Until Right Before Regular Season

Who will be the Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle? They’re not quite sure. And they’re not in a rush to find out.

Offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett weighed in on the team’s biggest position battle, the vacant right tackle spot between Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner. Sarrett said the battle is up in the air and a decision probably won’t come for a couple more weeks.

“The evaluation has to be fast but I’m not in a hurry about it,” was Sarrett’s full quote when asked about the battle. “I’m going to let them compete all the way up until the week of practice. I’m not going to make that decision right now or be forced into it. They’re out there competing every day. They’re flopping positions, they’re playing big tight end, they’re playing the regular tackle spot. It’s something i know I still have time with.”

Matt Feiler served as the Steelers’ right tackle a year ago but has kicked inside following Ramon Foster’s retirement. That leaves two young guys in Okorafor or Banner to replace him. Okorafor was the team’s third round pick in 2018. He’s made two starts at right tackle, including one against the Rams a year ago, but had an overall disappointing sophomore season. Some of that could be blamed on an injured shoulder that required surgery in the offseason.

Banner has become a fan favorite for his kneeldown blocks and reporting eligible moments but he’s come a long way. A 4th round pick of the Colts in 2017, he nearly fell out of the league as his weight spiked. Now, he’s in terrific shape and has clilmbed the ladder from mid-camp signing two years ago to being in a battle to start.

2020 means so much to both men. For Banner, he’s on a one-year deal, playing for long-term security either from Pittsburgh or someone else in the offseason. He won’t get that if he doesn’t start and play. For Okorafor, it’s his third year in the league and if the team hopes he can start long-term, especially with Alejandro Villanueva a free agent after the season, he has to instill that confidence this season.

Truthfully, the Week 1 starter isn’t guaranteed to have strong job security. It’s unlikely the team would do something drastic like rotate players in-game, or even on a week-to-week plan but if the initial winner struggles, the Steelers likely won’t have any qualms about turning to the other guy.

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