Steelers News

Okorafor Appreciates Business Of NFL As Zach Banner Looks Set To Return: ‘You Have To Prove Yourself Every Snap’

Either this next game or the game after, the Pittsburgh Steelers should have tackle Zach Banner back on the 53-man roster. His 21-day activation window closes mid-week next week, so either he is activated from the Reserve/Injured List or he stays there, and there is nothing indicating from a physical standpoint that he shouldn’t be activated.

What comes next is much less clear. The offensive line has had rookie Dan Moore Jr. settling in at left tackle, and Chukwuma Okorafor has resumed his duties on the right side, where Banner was projected to start. In fact, he is coming off one of the better games of his career, working against Von Miller and the Denver Broncos. But Okorafor isn’t concerned with what comes next.

Everyone here knows that it’s a business. You have to prove yourself every snap, every play, whether it’s me or Zach”, he told reporters after practice today when asked about how Banner’s return might affect his role. “I just do as I’m told. If I’m told to play left tackle this week, I’ll play left. If I’m told to play guard this week, I’ll play guard. I do as I’m told”.

He said that he “1000 percent” puts that out of his mind, though he did say that he saw some snaps, last week, at left tackle during practice. Okorafor was projected to start at left tackle before Banner was placed on the Reserve/Injured List, which prompted the coaches to shift him back to the right side so that Moore could play at the spot in which he’s more comfortable.

As everybody who follows the team is aware, the line has certainly had its growing pains, and even in this last game, in which they helped running back Najee Harris rush for over 100 yards and provided solid pass protection, there was plenty of tape worth looking over for improvement.

Will the line be tinkered with in the next game or two? Obviously, that has to depend on whether or not they determine that Banner is one of their five best linemen, even if right tackle figures to be the only spot he’s even being considered for.

As far as I know, Okorafor has never taken a rep at guard, so I don’t see that suddenly happening. I’m also not sure I see the team bumping Moore out of the starting lineup as he shows progress in the first five games of his career, though he could certainly use some weight in his pants when facing a bull rush

“You’ll have to go ask Coach” Mike Tomlin, Okorafor said, when he was asked what the plan was at the tackle positions moving forward. “I have no idea”, he added, regarding whether or not he might wind up back on the left side of the line, acknowledging that it would take reps to get comfortable there again.

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