With the team’s 2022 training camp now underway, tackle is perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers’ least experienced and proven position on the team’s current roster as they prepare for the regular season. Currently, the two projected starters at the tackle position are Dan Moore Jr., a second-year player, and the re-signed Chukwuma Okorafor. In keeping the tackle duo together after a poor 2021 season, the Steelers appear to be banking on the development of 23-year-old Moore and 24-year-old Okorafor, which is not an unreasonable strategy at face value.
An addition of someone to challenge for the starting role, or to serve as depth, is certainly plausible as the Steelers have a history of post-training camp trades to solidify less-than-satisfactory positions. A few examples of this include their 2021 trade for linebacker Joe Schobert, the 2017 trade for tight end Vance McDonald, and the 2015 trade for corner Brandon Boykin. Given that Okorafor recently resigned, it’s safe to assume that his starting job is not at significant jeopardy. On the other hand, this training camp may just be a test run for Moore.
An interesting name on the trade block to look out for in the case that the Steelers are unsatisfied with the current starting offensive tackle pair, or depth behind the duo, is Chicago Bears 2021 second-round pick, tackle Teven Jenkins. With trade rumors swirling and six straight missed practices, it appears likely that Jenkins will not be a Bear in 2022. With that assumption, Justin Melo of The Draft Network recently listed the Steelers as one of three landing spots for Jenkins.
“Dan Moore Jr. appears set to start at left tackle for the second consecutive season after struggling as a rookie. The former fourth-round selection may not be Pittsburgh’s long-term answer on the blindside,” Melo stated regarding the Steelers tackle position. “Chukwuma Okorafor returns to start at right tackle. Okorafor didn’t enjoy the most fruitful campaign in 2021 either, getting called for 11 penalties, per Pro Football Focus. Bringing in another developmental option such as Jenkins would be wise given the question marks that are present.”
Needless to say, Jenkins being a right tackle makes for an awkward fit. Given that Okorafor was recently re-signed to a multi-year deal and has started for the past two years, it’s hard to imagine his spot being stolen. Therefore, a trade for Jenkins also likely sees him move to left tackle and compete against Moore Jr. for the starting job.
Positional questions aside, the suggestion that the Steelers might could trade for Jenkins isn’t totally out of bounds. Jenkins was cited by draft analyst Tony Pauline as one of the three players the Steelers were locked into in the first round of the 2021 draft alongside center Landon Dickerson and the Steelers actual pick in running back Najee Harris.
Jenkins underwent back surgery prior to the 2021 season, only dressing up for six games and starting in two. Adding a developmental player in Jenkins with an opportunity to start after an offseason of recovery certainly would not hurt at the right price. That said, off-the-field concerns will be a key factor in whether the Steelers will have interest in Jenkins.
“There have been questions about Jenkins’ maturity and overall approach, but Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin has successfully managed difficult personalities before,” Melo stated regarding Jenkins maturity. “Tomlin’s ability to keep Antonio Brown in check for several seasons is now viewed as a resume-building accomplishment. The Steelers also drafted wide receiver George Pickens this year, who had similar maturity questions coming out of college. Working under Tomlin’s tutelage may represent the best-case scenario for Jenkins.”
Granted, head coach Mike Tomlin’s management of difficult personalities proves that it has been done. The comparison to former receiver Antonio Brown, however, is an apples-to-oranges comparison, as Brown had the adequate production while Jenkins is unproven. This is especially important in the context of determining whether to trade for a player, as said concerns are likely to decrease the compensation that the Steelers are willing to give for Jenkins. This may make it unlikely for them to win a bidding war. Not to mention, Jenkins may have fallen out of the first round due to injury concerns with his back. This injury is also what caused him to sit out the majority of 2021 and is likely to disencourage the Steelers’ interest.