While they have their in-house candidates, the Pittsburgh Steelers have an unsettled situation at the tackle position, as they figure out who will start and where between Zach Banner, Chukwuma Okorafor, Dan Moore, Jr., and perhaps Joe Haeg, as well.
One option that they don’t have is bringing in a pricey veteran free agent to fill the void created by the loss of Alejandro Villanueva, who had been their starting left tackle for the better part of the past six seasons. The only proof of that that you need is the fact that he is in Baltimore rather than Pittsburgh, because they would have just signed him.
That won’t stop the speculators, though. The Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves connected with a prominent free agent left tackle in Ben Linsey’s latest piece for Pro Football Focus, an exercise in which he connects the top remaining unsigned free agents with his favorite fits, seeing a spot for Russell Okung in the black and gold. He writes:
Pittsburgh’s decisions this offseason, ranging from restructuring Ben Roethlisberger’s contract to drafting immediate contributors such as Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth with their first two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, indicate that they want to make one last run before looking toward the future. If that’s the case, it makes sense to bring on a reliable veteran to man the left tackle position on a one-year deal.
The Steelers are currently trending toward starting fourth-year man Chukwuma Okorafor at left tackle after earning a 57.4 PFF grade in his first year as a starter on the right side in 2020. Zach Banner is expected to return from injury to man the right side. That duo has combined for 1,653 snaps in seven NFL seasons, while Okung has notched nearly 9,000 snaps in 11 years to go along with an 80.9 career grade.
He would bring some stability to the left side in Pittsburgh’s effort for one final push with Roethlisberger.
It is worth noting that the Steelers have shown interest in Okung before. They hosted the former Pro Bowler for a free agency visit back in 2016, and reportedly even made him an offer. He ended up signing with the Denver Broncos instead.
Now 32 years old and 11 years into his career, Okung’s best work is clearly behind him. He still figures to command more than a veteran-minimum salary. Frankly, that’s about all they can afford. Unless injuries arise, the expectation should be that their starting tackles this year are already on their 90-man roster.