The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Offensive tackle is, in fact, the Steelers’ weakest (or at least unproven) position group on the roster.
Explanation: Pro Football Focus recently put up an article listing the weakest position groups in the NFL. The Steelers’ offensive tackle position was on that list, with Alejandro Villanueva not on the roster, Chukwuma Okorafor having been, at best, an ‘at the line’ player, and Zach Banner returning from a knee injury after starting just one game.
Tackle is the only position on the roster in which players who have previously been intended starters account for just one snap. Alejandro Villanueva, despite his limitations and age, is a big loss when taken in context with the rest of the group, and Zach Banner remains virtually entirely unproven even though he won a starting job in training camp last season.
As for Chukwuma Okorafor, he now has 18 starts at right tackle over the course of his career. He has largely not distinguished himself in those games, and his numbers in pass protection are skewed due to the Steelers having the league’s shortest average time to throw.
At least at cornerback, you have Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton. At inside linebacker, you have Devin Bush and Robert Spillane. At outside linebacker, you have T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. At guard, you have David DeCastro and Kevin Dotson, and even multiple centers who have started multiple games for the team.
There’s no doubt that tackle is thin right now. But while Okorafor hasn’t been an intended starter, he has started, so he has experience, and he could be better at left tackle, where he may be more comfortable.
At center? You have B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer. Finney is already a guy that they let walk. Hassenauer just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Center is certainly more vulnerable than tackle.
Then you have cornerback. You need three starters, and they lost two of them from last season. It’s nice to have Cameron Sutton, but even he is largely unproven. Okorafor has logged more time at right tackle than Sutton has at cornerback.