The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.
They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.
There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Will Chukwuma Okorafor start a game at left tackle this season (not due to injury)?
The Steelers have, technically speaking, already had two tackles who were projected to be backups start at least one game this season. Rookie Dan Moore Jr. was competing to be the swing tackle as recently as about a week or two before the start of the regular season, but he’s started all of the first five games at left tackle.
That was because the Steelers’ projected right tackle, Zach Banner, had a setback with his recovery from a knee injury, and he has spent the first five weeks on the Reserve/Injured List. He figures to be activated to the 53-man roster either this week or next week, but what comes after that is unclear.
Excluding Joe Haeg for the moment, Pittsburgh has the following offensive line combinations to consider at tackle, left to right: Moore/Okorafor; Moore/Banner; Okorafor/Banner. Banner would not play left tackle. It is very unlikely Moore would play right tackle, so he probably either stays at left tackle or takes a seat.
Okorafor playing left tackle, outside of injury, would almost certainly necessitate that Banner is plugged into the starting lineup, the most likely alternative being Haeg playing a factor, and that would depend on Moore struggling enough to lose job security.
Chances are this won’t even be a discussion for the next two weeks, as the Steelers have their bye after this next game. But it’s notable that Okorafor did mention earlier this week he had taken some snaps at left tackle. But he would have to if he were to be benched for Banner, anyway, since he’d be the swing tackle and would need to be prepared to play on either side.