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 veteran tackle has been playing better in recent weeks, balancing pass protection and run blocking, though he has not been free of penalties, which have been a bigger problem this year than last year.
Chukwuma Okorafor was supposed to be the Steelers’ starting left tackle this season after the team moved on from Alejandro Villanueva. Because Zach Banner was not ready to go at the start of the season, however, and rookie Dan Moore Jr. was much more comfortable at left tackle, Okorafor stayed at right tackle, where he started 16 games in 2020 after Banner tore his ACL in the opener.
Overall, it hasn’t exactly been a success plugging him in over there. And that goes back to last year. But the truth is that he has been playing better over the course of the past few weeks, and that should be noted. Credit where it’s due and all that.
We have even seen him making more plays—or at least fewer negative plays—when it comes to run blocking, which has been the weaker part of his game since he came into the league. Overall, he has actually been pretty solid down the stretch.
That doesn’t mean he has the makings of a full-time starter, even if he has, technically, been a starter for the past two seasons. Still, the reality is that he is going to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and it’s not clear where he fits into their plans.
Theoretically, they already have a left tackle in Moore, who is just one year into his rookie contract. Banner was re-signed this offseason to be the right tackle. Would they cut Banner and re-sign Okorafor? I suppose it’s possible. But they can’t stop looking, either way, as this offensive line is far from a finished product.