Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, 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 offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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: Even
Reasoning: While the Steelers told reporters yesterday that Chukwuma Okorafor would be their left tackle as of today, they also stressed that April depth charts hardly mean anything and can change dramatically.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert held their annual pre-draft press conference on Monday. While they did not offer many comments on current players on their roster, one player and his role on the team mentioned is tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, entering his fourth season.
While he has failed to win a starting job over his first three years, he did play 16 games a year ago after Zach Banner, who defeated him in a training camp battle, suffered a torn ACL in the opener. With Alejandro Villanueva gone but Banner returning, Tomlin did allow that Okorafor is “probably penciled in [at left tackle] in late April.”
But he also said that “depth charts this time of year are funny. They don’t mean anything. They’re not worth the paper they’re written on.” Nevertheless, the implication is that, as of now, Banner would be at right tackle and Okorafor at left.
That isn’t anything that we hadn’t already assumed, though. Really, nothing that we heard from the team so far heading into the draft has presented any new information not previously inferred. In other words, from my perspective, nothing has changed for Okorafor.
Of course, this may be a very different discussion a week from now. There is a greater-than-average chance that the Steelers will draft a tackle with one of their eight picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Where will that tackle come in, however, and how likely would he be to have the preparation and skill level to compete for a starting job as a rookie?
That’s really the biggest question for Okorafor, because this may wind up being his last season in Pittsburgh either way. The 2021 season is the final year of his rookie contract. He will be an unrestricted free agent in March 2022, so if he gets a chance to start this year, he’ll have the opportunity to earn himself some money.