One game into the 2020 season and the Pittsburgh Steelers are already doing the o-line shuffle. Stefen Wisniewski and Zach Banner suffered injuries in Monday’s 26-16 win over the New York Giants. Banner will reportedly miss the season with a torn ACL. Tomlin said Wisniewski’s injury outlook is “more favorable” but his status for Sunday against Denver still uncertain. With David DeCastro working his way back from a knee injury, the Steelers may be starting new faces at RG and RT in their home opener.
Those new faces would be rookie RG Kevin Dotson and RT Chukwuma Okorafor. At his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin expressed more confidence in Okorafor than Dotson if called upon this weekend.
“I think those are two different discussions,” Tomlin told reporters. “We’ve talked quite a bit about Chuks along with Banner and the battle that they have for right tackle. Like I’ve said repeatedly, I thought both guys were starter capable and I still feel that way. So I’m extremely comfortable with Chuks in his ability to play and his overall readiness.”
Okorafor should be the team’s starting right tackle going forward. A third-year player, Sunday against the Broncos will be his third career start, his second versus Denver. There shouldn’t be a massive dropoff from Banner to Okorafor though stylistically, they are two different players. Banner is bigger and stronger while Okorafor is the more athletic player.
Tomlin admitted Dotson is much more of an unknown.
“Dotson is another story. He’s a young guy who hadn’t had a lot of work throughout this process because of injury and lack of availability. So there’s some angst there. And if he’s called upon this week, man, it’s gonna take a tremendous effort by him and by us. And by us, I mean, us putting him in the very best position to perform. And so there’s a dual responsibility there.”
Dotson logged a handful of snaps in place of Wisniewski last night. The Steelers’ fourth round pick this season, Dotson was lauded as a mauling run blocker with a ton of experience, 52 starts at UL-Lafayette. But all rookies are in a tougher place without spring work or preseason and Dotson missed about a week of training camp with a knee injury. Tomlin is correct in pointing to the tough task of getting him ready but if Wisniewski and DeCastro are unavailable, the team won’t have much of a choice.