2020 South Side Questions: Has Chukwuma Okorafor Earned Himself A Long-Term Starting Job?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, 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 looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? 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: Has Chukwuma Okorafor earned himself a permanent starting job over the past four games—with a potential move to left tackle in 2021?

Chukwuma Okorafor has competed in and lost two training camp battles for the starting right tackle job over the past two offseasons. He lost to Matt Feiler in 2019, which is understandable. Feiler started 10 games there the year before. He lost to Zach Banner this Summer, though Mike Tomlin said it was a close competition.

Once Banner tore his ACL late in the season opener, though, the path was laid bare in front of him, and to his credit, he has by and large seized the opportunity and represented himself fairly well over the course of the past four games as a starter.

The next 11-plus games will be an important audition tape for him and will help define the Steelers’ offseason agenda with Feiler, Banner, and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva all pending unrestricted free agents. If they are confident that Okorafor can hold down one of the starting tackle jobs, that greatly increases their flexibility.

Not a lot of people were familiar with him when the Steelers drafted him in the third round in 2018, but they saw a raw but talented and athletic potential future starter. He’s now in year three and in the starting lineup. Even if he didn’t get there by conventional means, it may be the case that he remains there for many years to come.

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