The Pittsburgh Steelers are now training camp, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp will look much different from the norm, and a big part of that will be the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. There will be no preseason played in 2020, so the first time the Steelers take the field in 2020 will be for the season opener against the New York Giants.
Before we get there, however, there are a number of issues that are outstanding on this team, and this year’s edition of training camp will not provide the level of thoroughness that teams are normally used to in trying to answer those questions.
Questions like, what is the starting offensive line going to look like? Will it include Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor? Who will be the primary nose tackle? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Who is winning the right tackle battle?
By and large, the Steelers have refrained from giving any specific details about Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner, at least in relation to one another, which is notable. The two young offensive linemen are competing for the same starting job at right tackle, and offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett said that the team is willing to take this up to the Saturday before the opener to be settled.
Without the benefit of having eyes in training camp or preseason games, it’s really hard to get a feel for where the competition stands. Perhaps some insight can be gleaned from the fact that, for example, Okorafor took the first reps with the first-team offense in drills yesterday. But that’s a pretty small detail without a lot of context. Then again, Zach Banner helped the offense score three times with Benny Snell on the ground.
Considering this is the only starting job up for grabs, the right tackle job hasn’t been getting much publicity, but then again, you can only ask certain things of certain people, and reporters aren’t free to just walk up to anybody this year.
The only thing that we really appear to know is that the Steelers feel comfortable enough in the competition that they don’t have any intention of moving Matt Feiler back over to right tackle, where he’s started 25 games over the course of the past two seasons. He has been full-time at left tackle throughout training camp.