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: The third-year offensive lineman played well in his second start of the season at right tackle since Zach Banner went down for the year with a torn ACL.
It’s not often that a team has two starter-quality offensive linemen at the same position, one being the backup to the other, but it appears that may well have been how the Steelers entered the 2020 season. Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor competed to start at right tackle, the decision between the two being made late in training camp, because it had been that close.
Banner won the job, and performed serviceably in his first-ever start before he suffered the knee injury late in the opener. Okorafor, who had started two games previously during his first two years in the league, has taken over since, and the Steelers haven’t really seemed to miss a beat.
In fact, they have posted a 100-yard rusher in every game of the season, scoring three touchdowns offensively in each game, averaging more than 26 points per game, and about 250 passing yards per game on top of that.
That’s not to say that he has been flawless or that he won’t have a bad game down the line, but let’s just say that the right side of the offense for the Steelers has been quiet. For example, J.J. Watt was held without a tackle for loss, sack, or even quarterback hit, and he spent much of his time lining up over right tackle, even if they used a lot of chips—which they would have done for whoever lined up against Watt, the way the Houston Texans did against his brother.
Banner’s injury was upsetting, first and foremost, on the human level. it was awful for him and I’m sure everyone is pulling for him to make it back. On a football level, however, it wasn’t so much the blow to the starting lineup as it was to the depth.
Okorafor, as we’ve seen for the past two games, would have made for a great backup. Now he is functioning as a good starting right tackle, and that’s certainly nothing to complain about.