Realistically, Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor won’t have to face off against a better pass rusher in the NFL all season long — and maybe for his entire career — than the one he finds himself going against each day in training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.
Okorafor finds himself lined up across from the reigning Defensive Player of the Year each snap in training camp, putting his feet to the fire right away from a pass protection and run blocking standpoint early in camp. Though Okorafor didn’t get to prepare against Watt last season in training camp as Watt conducted a hold-in for a new deal that he eventually received, the two are rather familiar with each other, going against one another in practices all season long.
As Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin likes to say, “iron sharpens iron”, and that’s what Watt believes is happening with Okorafor early in training camp at Saint Vincent College.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday prior to practice on Chuck Noll Field, Watt praised Okorafor, stating he believes the veteran offensive tackle is gaining more and more confidence at the position and believes he’s making the star pass rusher better, while in turn making himself better overall.
“I think he’s gaining confidence and it’s always good to see,” Watt said to reporters Wednesday, according to video via Steelers.com. “Obviously we’re very comfortable with each other now, whatever it is, 3, 4, 5 years going against each other. I’m gonna get the best of him sometimes, and he’s gonna get the best of me sometimes. But as long as we’re getting better together, that’s all the matters.”
The Steelers are hoping that Okorafor is getting better working against Watt each and every day, considering the Steelers invested heavily in him early in free agency, retaining the 25-year-old offensive tackle who appears to have fully locked down the right tackle job for the time being in Pittsburgh.
Okorafor was previously aiming to make the shift back to left tackle ahead of the 2021 season, but an injury to Zach Banner forced the Steelers to shuffle the deck chairs a bit, moving Okorafor back to right tackle and inserting then-rookie Dan Moore Jr. into the lineup. Now, coming off of disastrous season overall as an entire offensive line unit, the Steelers are looking for a guy like Okorafor to emerge as not only a leader up front, but one of the Steelers’ best offensive linemen overall.
Going against Watt each and every day in Latrobe will certainly help Okorafor get better in a hurry and truly find his game overall at right tackle. Iron will continue to sharpen iron, making the Steelers better in the long run for it.