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: Chukwuma Okorafor will come into his own on the left side of the offensive line.
Explanation: Finally getting back into the full swing of practice, Chukwuma Okorafor was immediately installed into the first-team offensive line, working at left tackle, where Steelers coaches have said that they feel he is better suited to play.
The Steelers knew that Chukwuma Okorafor would need time to gain polish when they first drafted him. Not only was he drafted as an underclassman out of Western Michigan, he had only been playing football for something like five or six years, after growing up in various African nations until his pre-teens, I believe.
Truthfully, he came out better than I expected, but perhaps that was his natural talent giving him a jump. He gained a lot of experience while starting last year, which is a big boost. Now, playing on the side that’s more natural for him, it’s reasonable to anticipate improvement.
It’s less predictable, but I would argue still likely, that he actually develops into a genuinely above the line starting left tackle. He has all the ingredients now, for the first time in his career, to take that next step, playing in the right spot, having the experience, being in good shape, and having a full offseason.
I think too much is being made, at least in Okorafor’s case, about which side he’s playing on. He played both left and right tackle in college. It’s not like he was unfamiliar with playing on that side. And he spent most of his first three years playing on the right side, since Alejandro Villanueva was on the left.
Four years in, the vast majority of players are who they are. We would have seen more out of Okorafor last year if he was going to be a franchise player, even on the right side, even through a shortened offseason. He might be passable, but he’ll be the guy who makes us wonder when Dan Moore Jr. will be ready.