Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just once in Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, and that sack was on him. Put simply the ball should have already been out of his hands by then, if not well before. In fact, the pass protection was pretty strong overall, though they did throw the ball less often than they typically do.
Still, that’s not something you often get to say in a game in which Von Miller is on the field. The future Hall of Famer continues to play like one age the age of 32, but he didn’t have a great deal of impact on the game—officially credited with just two assists—and the right tackle deserves a lot of credit for that. That would be Chukwuma Okorafor.
“We weren’t going to sacrifice our whole offense by putting extra tight ends and extra guys over there”, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of their game plan in pass protection, though he said they did chip some. “We asked Chuks to do a job against one of the best pass rushers in the game and one of the better ones of all time, and I thought he did a great job tonight”.
Okorafor has started 20 of the last 21 games at right tackle for the Steelers, missing only last week’s game while in the concussion protocol. Joe Haeg started that game, and many felt that he should continue to start. Zach Banner, working his way back from the Reserve/Injured List, seemed like another possibility to take his job.
Faced with mounting pressure around him, Okorafor responded with what appears to be one of the better games he has played in the NFL, now with 22 starts under his belt since entering the league in 2018 in the third round.
The Western Michigan product actually made his first career start against the Broncos and Miller back in 2018 as an injury fill-in for Matt Feiler, who was an injury fill-in for Marcus Gilbert at the time. Though he did get a lot of help, and ultimately gave up one sack, Okorafor actually did a surprisingly good job against the premier pass rusher even then.
So what does this mean moving forward? Well, I think at least the fourth-year pro has helped his case to stay at right tackle after what was certainly his best game of the year—really, the best game of the year for most of the offense, including the entire offensive line perhaps.
Banner has one more week of eligibility before he has to be activated to the 53-man roster. He can, of course, be activated without starting, but it will be interesting to see how the next weeks play out. They have one more game, at home against a Russell Wilson-less Seattle Seahawks, before getting their bye week. Decisions will be made then.