The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line is not where the organization was hoping that it would be this year, counting upon immediate upgrades in free agency coupled with internal growth by its young players at the position. While new center Mason Cole has played well and James Daniels has begun to come along at right guard, the left side of the line, particularly left tackle, has been a concerning question mark.
It prompted at least Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to probe the question of whether or not the Steelers coaching staff was giving any consideration to making a change. After all, it was Chukwuma Okorafor who trained all offseason in 2021 to play left tackle, and they just acquired a player in Jesse Davis who has experience starting at right tackle. So has there been any talk of Okorafor moving to the left side?
As it turns out, no, and I’m not even remotely surprised, although I respect Fittipaldo for probing the question. When he asked Okorafor about it directly, he laughed it off. “I don’t know if it’s a real thing or if it’s just something on Twitter where people are trying to bring something up”, he told the veteran reporter. “I have my mind focused on playing right tackle. That’s all I know right now”.
While I understand the reasoning behind the probe, generally speaking, the two weeks leading into the regular season is not the time that you want to start tinkering with the starting lineup. It’s true that Okorafor was supposed to start at left tackle last year, but the only reason the team altered course was because of Zach Banner’s bad knee and a rookie Moore’s significant discomfort playing on the right side.
Okorafor had experience starting at both left and right tackle during his college career, and of course had started at right tackle in 2020, so he had plenty of experience to fall back on when they made the switch. But the reality is that he has almost no meaningful experience working at left tackle in the NFL, so it’s much less simple for him to make a sudden shift from right to left than left to right.
While offensive coordinator Matt Canada did tell Fittipaldo that he and the team do not view Okorafor as strictly a right tackle, he did say that he feels, at this time, having him there gives them the best chance to win.
For his part, head coach Mike Tomlin has consistently said throughout training camp and the preseason that his approach to this offensive line was going to be to just keep snapping the ball and let them play and develop.
Of course, Moore has a lot of developing to do based on his poor performance during the preseason, which has been a regression even from his preseason performance from his rookie year. But at least as of this time, I think I have to echo the thoughts of the coaching staff right now, that moving Okorafor over to left tackle isn’t the answer for the start of the 2022 season. Let’s let this play out a bit more.