The Pittsburgh Steelers have been active in addressing their offensive line via free agency for the past two years, particularly along the interior. The starting five next season is likely to feature an interior trio made up entirely of players they have signed as unrestricted free agents over the past two years.
The names that they have added at tackle are somewhat less robust. Last year it was Trent Scott. This year, so far, it is Le’Raven Clark. The 2023 NFL Draft could completely flip the script, but by now it appears obvious the Steelers will not be taking any big swings at tackle in free agency.
Head coach Mike Tomlin spoke to Pittsburgh reporters yesterday in his first public comments of the offseason, and he was asked if he was happy with the tackle position with incumbent starters Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor.
“Happy is a dangerous word”, he said, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. “I’m comfortable”.
The word comfortable can be dangerous coming from the Steelers’ mouths, as well. They repeatedly said that they were “comfortable” with Mason Rudolph as a potential starting quarterback before signing Mitch Trubisky in free agency and then drafting Kenny Pickett.
Moore, a 2021 fourth-round draft pick, has started all but one game, due to injury, over the past two seasons, logging every single snap in 2022. He has had two different offensive line coaches during that time, which may have widened the learning curve as he grows. But Tomlin spoke highly of him, particularly his maturity.
“He brings a professional approach”, he said, via Kaboly. “He has proven to be durable and available, which are big things. He works to eliminate mistakes and that speaks to continual improvement. I just like what he has done and it all stems from his mature and professional approach to business that allowed those things to transpire”.
Okorafor, drafted in the third round in 2018, did not enter the starting lineup until 2020. He initially lost the battle for the starting job to Zach Banner that summer, but the latter suffered a torn ACL in the opener and has never played again. Okorafor hasn’t missed many snaps since then.
He is entering the second year of a three-year, $29.25 million contract that he signed last season as an unrestricted free agent to remain in Pittsburgh. He is due $10 million this season, $4 million of which has already been paid via a March roster bonus. He will earn $8.75 million in 2024, including another $4 million March roster bonus, if he remains on the team.
History has shown that comfort at a position will not preclude the Steelers from making dramatic moves to upgrade until they are happy. It is quite possible that Tomlin and the front office will try to find some happiness at tackle next month in the draft. But for now, they have some comfort in knowing what they have in Moore and Okorafor.