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Buy Or Sell: Chukwuma Okorafor’s Job Is Safer Than Dan Moore’s

With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of reaching the playoffs, it’s time to begin reloading, through the free agency process, through the draft, and perhaps even through trade.

This is now a young team on the offensive side of the ball, though one getting older on defense. Both sides could stand to be supplemented robustly, including in the trenches—either one. Changes have been made to the coaching staff, even if not all of the desired ones, as the roster continues to renew with the weeks ticking by.

These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).

Topic Statement: Chukwuma Okorafor’s job is safer than Dan Moore Jr.’s.

Explanation: With many anticipating that the Steelers could target an offensive tackle in the first or second round, and with most top tackle prospects playing on the left side of the line, one might think that the left tackle starter would be more vulnerable. Moore also has very limited experience playing on the right side, while Okorafor has college experience on the left side.

Buy:

While offensive lines have become more “ambidextrous” over the years, there’s still a mystique about playing the “blindside”. Just ask Orlando Brown Jr. if it’s important. So if the Steelers draft a tackle high, it’s likely going to be a player who plays on the left side and wants to stay there.

Moore is the one who plays on the left side, and he hasn’t really made the continual progress you would want to see. Whether or not he can be moved to the right side is a legitimate question as well, given that his experience there is essentially limited to some training camp and preseason reps during his rookie year.

On the other hand, Okorafor can play both on the left and the right side, even if almost all of his NFL experience is on the latter. He was slated to start at left tackle in 2021 before injuries forced the Steelers to adjust. Moore was seen as so limited to the left side that they had to move Okorafor back to right tackle just to accommodate.

Sell:

Ultimately, the goal of this offseason is to put the best five offensive linemen together, and one can certainly argue that Moore is better, and has more potential, than Okorafor. That may well include keeping him on the left side, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be moved.

It’s also possible that the Steelers draft a lineman who is better suited to play right tackle, or who might more easily play right tackle as a rookie, like Dawand Jones. Right tackles have to play against T.J. Watt, after all.

And here’s another thing to consider. If the Steelers draft a day-one starter at tackle, Okorafor’s contract starts looking pretty big. Do they want to pay him $6 million this year (they already paid him a $4 million signing bonus, but sunken cost fallacy and all that) and nearly $9 million next year if they have a rookie starter and a guy in Moore whom they still believe in? I don’t think we can even guarantee beyond a doubt that Okorafor would be on the roster in September if the Steelers were to draft a tackle.

Moore is still a young, ascending player who has had three different offensive line coaches in two years. Okorafor is who he is: a replacement-level starter. You could do worse. But Moore could be better. And in this situation, you go with the potential for better. If you bench Moore now, you stunt his growth. If you bench Okorafor, you just have him waiting in the wings like he did for much of his career. This is a man who lost a starting competition to Zach Banner.

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