Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 season and into the offseason 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: After writing just a day ago that I felt Okorafor had not done anything overly significant during the 2021 season that would notably improve his market value, the fifth-year offensive tackle signed a new three-year, $29.25 million contract to remain with the Steelers.
Well, it turns out I don’t know everything. I came into the day skeptical about Chukwuma Okorafor’s market value. Following reports that the four-year veteran was fielding interests from other teams upon the opening of the negotiating window, it was announced that he had agreed to terms on, and then signed, a new three-year contract with the Steelers.
The 2018 third-round draft pick, who has started 33 games including the postseason over the last two years, figures to remain the team’s right tackle for the immediate future, though it’s possible that he could move to left tackle if Dan Moore Jr. doesn’t work out.
His three-year deal is reportedly worth $29.25 million, including a 2022 cap number of just $4,333,333. He has a base salary of $1,250,000 for the year, and was given a $9,250,000 million signing bonus, which counts against the cap $3,083,333 per season.
In all, he pockets $11 million in year one, and can earn another $10 million in 2023 with a $6 million base salary and a $4 million roster bonus. In the final year of the deal in 2024, he is due to earn $4.75 million in base salary with another $4 million roster bonus.
Of course, by then, the Steelers will have determined whether or not he deserves another long-term extension, so there’s a reasonable chance he would be earning more than $8.75 million that season—or he could be cut, depending on how the next year or two go.
Okorafor isn’t even going to turn 25 years old until August. By the next time he is scheduled to be a free agent, he will only be 27 years old. He absolutely has at least one more long-term deal in his future if his play dictates it. And it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that a player of his background—late to football, and having had numerous different offensive line coaches during his pro career without a stable starting role—can continue to improve.