Chukwuma Okorafor thinks the value of left tackle and right tackle is the same. But his comfort level is a lot different, in a good way, back on the blindside.
After making every one of his starts in the NFL at right tackle, Okorafor shifted back over to the left side this offseason after Alejandro Villanueva’s long tenure with the team came to a close. Returning to team practice just the other day following an early-camp injury, Okorafor feels like he’s in a better place this season.
He spoke with reporters yesterday and was asked about now playing left tackle.
“Yeah, I feel more at home on the left side,” he said via the team website.
That’s where he predominantly played in college at Western Michigan. In fact, he was the guy who kept Taylor Moton, now a highly paid NFL starter for the Carolina Panthers, on the right side in school.
To some, left versus right tackle is just a different of name and side. But so many who have tried both, including Okorafor, knows the change is night and day.
“Everything. Body, your mental, everything is different. You’ve got to figure it out, do I punch with this hand or that hand? Do I kick? See what I’m saying? It’s kind of all different.”
That echoes what players like Flozell Adams and Tunch Ilkin have said in the past. Okorafor returning to left tackle is more natural and brings him back to his roots that made him a Day 2 draft pick. It also should hide some of his run-blocking and strength deficiencies. Zach Banner on the right side is a much more natural fit, so it’s a win-win.
Though he’s making the switch, Okorafor knows his position isn’t necessarily more valuable than his right tackle counterpart.
“No, I don’t think so. We have guys who are going to rush against the left tackle, the right tackle. Doesn’t really matter at this point. At least to me.”
Financially, the league still views it differently. Left tackles get paid more than right tackles. In a contract year, Okorafor could be in line for a handsome payday, from Pittsburgh or someone else, if he has a breakout season. The Steelers are putting him in the best position to succeed. Literally.