Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: T Chukwuma Okorafor
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: At least for the foreseeable future, it appears as though Chukwuma Okorafor will be the Steelers’ starting right tackle following Zach Banner’s season-ending knee injury. The two competed for the job in training camp, a battle described frequently as close.
A third-round draft pick in 2018, Chukwuma Okorafor was described as raw coming out of Western Michigan as a true junior and three-year starter. He only played football for the first time in 2011, and was first exposed to the game the year before when his family emigrated to the United States.
He proved to be more ready than expected, so he was able to get on the field as the tackle-eligible, and even started one game due to injury, doing a reasonably solid job. But with Banner emerging last year, he was inactive for 15 games, though the one game for which he dressed was a game he started.
Though he lost out to Banner for the starting job last month, everybody who talked about the competition described it as a close one and said that either player would be capable of doing the job. Now that Banner is on the shelf until next season, Okorafor will have to prove that what they said was true.
The fact that he already has two starts under his belt is helpful, and like Chris Hubbard and Matt Feiler before him—and previously Kelvin Beachum—they should only benefit from the playing time, working his way into the job with the more exposure that he gets.
One thing Okorafor certainly has is the physical tools to handle the position. He has pretty good feet and knows how to use his hands, but he can be more consistent with his technique. He played a handful of snaps at the end of the opener after Banner was injured, but Sunday will be our first true opportunity to see what kind of progress he has been able to make since last season.