We started this series with a little over two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made by then. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Steelers did not have as many starters as last year hit free agency, but as of yet, they have only re-signed one of note, Chukwuma Okorafor. JuJu Smith-Schuster has already signed elsewhere, but others such as Trai Turner, Joe Haden, and Terrell Edmunds remain unsigned.
They were substantially active in free agency, however, re-signing Ahkello Witherspoon, Arthur Maulet, Miles Killebrew, Montravius Adams, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, and J.C. Hassenauer. They also signed linemen James Daniels and Mason Cole in outside free agency, as well as quarterback Mitch Trubisky, cornerback Levi Wallace, wide receiver/returner Gunner Olszewski, linebacker Myles Jack, and outside linebacker Genard Avery.
The team did not have to make drastic moves in order to get into cap compliance, but they did release two high-salaried players in linebacker Joe Schobert and tackle Zach Banner. As of now, they have not restructured any contracts, though restructuring T.J. Watt later this offseason is likely.
Position: Offensive Tackle
Total Positional Figure: 5
Offseason Additions: 0
Offseason Deletions: 1
Chukwuma Okorafor: Now going into his fifth season, Okorafor has two years of starting under his belt. He signed a new three-year contract work $29.25 million, essentially solidifying his starting job for at least this year. Could they consider moving him to left tackle as they intended last year? Probably not, unless they find another right tackle.
Dan Moore Jr.: After being drafted in the fourth round, Moore was thrust into the starting lineup at left tackle late in the process after Zach Banner had an injury setback. The Texas A&M product had a rough start to the season, but gradually began to settle down, and certainly played a better brand of football, though still needing much in the way of improvement, in the second half of the year.
Joe Haeg: A veteran free agent signing a year ago, Haeg proved to be a jack of all trades, and started a game apiece at left and right tackle in 2021, performing serviceably enough. For the price, the team could do worse as a four-position backup.
John Leglue: A former practice squad veteran, Leglue started at left guard down the stretch following a rash of injuries. However, the team originally looked at him at tackle, and he could play there, especially after they added two veteran free agent interior linemen last month.
Chaz Green: A former third-round pick, Green has never lived up to his draft status, but he has spent plenty of time on 53-man rosters, even if he was on Pittsburgh’s practice squad last year. Right now, he would be competing with Leglue for the ninth lineman role.
Players Added: N/A
Zach Banner: Twice penciled in as the starting right tackle in 2020 and 2021, Banner’s career was waylaid by a torn ACL he suffered in his first career start in the opener of 2020. He beat out Okorafor for the right tackle job prior to that. He was slated to return last year, but he had a setback with his knee and spent a good chunk of the year on the Reserve/Injured List. Even when he returned, the coaching staff passed over opportunities to get him on the field. He was released earlier this offseason, taking his $5 million base salary off the books.
Notes And Draft Outlook:
While re-signing Okorafor helped retain stability at the position, the Steelers have not upgraded from where they were a year ago. Neither Moore nor Okorafor should be viewed as definite long-term answers, but it’s possible that they could at least be serviceable in the short-term, especially if paired with improvements along the interior.
Really, not much has changed since the end of last season. There is no reason to take tackle off of the Steelers’ board in any round. Taking one in the first round would certainly not be looked at as a bad pick by anybody. And they need depth, either way, after letting Banner go.