Steelers offensive tackles could be the downfall of their offense in 2021

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (76). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (76). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers are putting a lot of faith in a pair of unproven offensive tackles. Here’s why it could be their downfall in 2021.

NFL minicamps are just around the corner and the Steelers haven’t made any earth-shattering free agent moves since the NFL Draft. While this can be expected, many thought that Pittsburgh would be in the market to fix some positions that weren’t addressed until late in the draft.

The Steelers were reportedly in the running for edge defender Ryan Kerrigan, and many analysts have been screaming for them to go after a cornerback after losing both Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson this offseason. However, the position I am the most worried about at the moment is offensive tackle.

Pittsburgh lost Alejandro Villanueva to the Baltimore Ravens in free agency this offseason. At this point in his career, Villanueva was a serviceable pass protector who didn’t offer much in terms of paving way for the running game. While the Steelers drafted a developmental tackle prospect in Texas A&M’s Dan Moore Jr. in the fourth round this year, he’s not going to be ready to play from the gate, nor should he be asked to.

Because of this, it appears the Steelers are planning on rolling with widely unproven players in Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner as their starting offensive tackles in 2021.

Steelers offensive tackles could be their downfall

If we’re being honest here, Okorafor and Banner have done very little in their NFL careers for us to be confident that they can get the job done. While head coach Mike Tomlin is admittedly high on Banner in particular, the big offensive tackle has just 2 NFL starts by the age of 27.

Last year, Banner won the starting right tackle job out of training camp – beating out Okorafor in the two-man race. Now, the Steelers want to take their swing tackle who couldn’t earn a starting gig and throw him over at left tackle as a fill-in for Alejandro Villanueva in 2021. What could go wrong? Okorafor graded out as one of the worst tackles in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and there’s no reason to expect him to be better after a positional change in 2021.

Filling a role at left tackle isn’t like replacing a running back or an inside linebacker. Most teams would consider it to be the second-most important position in all of football after quarterback, as they are responsible for making sure the face of the franchise doesn’t get blindsided. Yet, the Steelers are apparently content going into the season with a big question mark at one of the most important positions on the field.

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For the measures that the Steelers have taken in an effort to make sure their team stays as competitive as possible for one final season with Ben Roethlisberger, I would have thought they would have been more concerned about their offensive tackles. The organization apparently has a lot of faith in Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner. Let’s hope they’re not wrong.