Every time the discussion arises about an offensive linemen switching from one side of the formation to another (a problem a center never has, fortunately for them), we get the debate over whether or not it’s a simple matter. For the most part, the fans seem to think it is, and in fairness, some players don’t make much of it, either.
But it can be a complicated process, and has more moving parts than simply being on the other side of the field and reversing your muscle memory to basically doing the opposite of what you’ve been doing. That’s equally important for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Chukwuma Okorafor as he moves from the right side to the left.
After all, he played two years at left tackle for Western Michigan, versus one on the right side, so it’s not as though he’s learning something new. But he is learning to play with a new guard, after having David DeCastro next to him for the past three years when he’s been on the field.
Now it’s going to be second-year Kevin Dotson, who admitted last year that it was an adjustment for him to move from right guard to the left side. But Okorafor did actually play a couple games next to Dotson last year, and told reporters that he is comfortable with that aspect of the switch.
“Different side? Yeah”, he said of the adjustment. “Different player? No. There were a couple games Dave wasn’t able to play last year and Dotson was playing on my side last year. It shouldn’t be that much of an adjustment to move from right to left this year”.
Still, while he might be familiar with playing on the left side from his college days, and he does have a couple of games logged next to Dotson, the combination of the two flipping sides to what they have been most recently familiar with, and getting the feel for your help being on the opposite side, is something that takes repetition to adapt to.
Okorafor has spent the past three years with his guard help to his left. Now it’s to his right. And his guard help is still getting his feet under him in terms of himself being used to playing on the left side, and having a tackle to his left and the center to his right.
But of course, that’s what the offseason is for, and at least this year, they have the preseason to work through it all. Dotson acquitted himself well over the course of four starts, two on either side, and the team seems to feel pretty comfortable with his position.
As for Okorafor, he’s not taking it as a given that he will be the starter on the left side, but he is given the opportunity to be the frontrunner and to make the job his own. Presumably, Dan Moore Jr. and Joe Haeg will get some opportunities there, but it’s clear what the first-option look is for now.