Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: T Chukwuma Okorafor
Stock Value: Even
Reasoning: The veteran offensive tackle merely continued to settle into his role at right tackle, neither improving nor hurting his case. He did not demonstrate any noteworthy, significant improvements from the best moments of the previous season.
It’s been a long time since the Steelers have had a right tackle make the Pro Bowl (even if Marcus Gilbert was deserving). I don’t think that Chukwuma Okorafor is on the verge of breaking that streak, however long it might be, but they could do worse, and have done worse.
Having now completed his third season as the primary full-time starter, he is continuing to settle into who he is as a player, even if I don’t think we have observed major, significant improvements over that time. He does generally finish seasons better than he starts.
It’s also worth pointing out that he has had a different offensive line coach and right guard in each of those seasons. It was Shaun Sarrett and David DeCastro in 2020, then Adrian Klemm and Trai Turner in 2021.
One hopes that Pat Meyer will be a long-term fixture as the offensive line coach, however, and James Daniels the same as the team’s new right guard. In turn, that stability of personnel and instruction should be a boon to everybody, including Okorafor, who will finally have some familiar faces around him.
Outside of J.C. Hassenauer, the backup center, Okorafor is the only person involved in the offensive line who has been with the team for more than three seasons. Kevin Dotson is the only other one who has been here for at least three seasons.
At least in theory, the 2023 season should be the best season of Okorafor’s career even if he has already been in the league for five years and has been a starter for three. He has only missed one game, and indeed has hardly missed a snap. But if he wants this job for life, I think he’s still going to have to grow a bit more than what he’s shown up to this point.