Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: T Chukwuma Okorafor
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The fourth-year tackle has been a full participant in practice throughout the week so far after missing the Steelers’ last game due to a concussion.
I don’t know what the future holds for Chukwuma Okorafor right now with regards to the Steelers’ intentions for him in the starting lineup, but regardless of what may come, he has made significant progress this week in being able to participate fully in practice.
The fourth-year veteran suffered a concussion in the second half of the week three game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He was not able to practice at all last week, and naturally was sat out against the Green Bay Packers.
But it looks as though he is likely on the doorstep of being cleared from the concussion protocols. He participated fully in practice on Wednesday, and then did so again on Thursday. Assuming that there is no setback that sees him going in the wrong direction, it’s very likely he clears the concussion protocols, perhaps today, after demonstrating no ill effects from physical exertion.
Now, assuming that he does clear the concussion protocols, what does that mean for him? With Zach Banner working his way back and potentially being activated off of the Reserve/Injured List, will he lose his starting job?
Joe Haeg filled in for Okorafor last week with him out, and he played pretty well, even getting singled out, for example, by offensive coordinator Matt Canada on Thursday for his play without being asked about him.
Okorafor was supposed to start at left tackle this season, but was kicked back to the right side following Banner’s setback with his knee injury. Since then, rookie Dan Moore Jr. has filled in on the left side, and may hold that job. The question is, will Okorafor get the right tackle job back, at least? Or will it go to Banner, or even Haeg? Without having access to practice, I can only guess, but availability is the first ability you must possess for any job, and he has that back this week.