Steelers OT injury could prove to be a devastating loss vs Bengals

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor (76) participates in organized team activities at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor (76) participates in organized team activities at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers had an injury pop up on Thursday’s practice report. Here’s why the potential absence of Chukwuma Okorafor would be a devastating loss.

Compared to some teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been pretty fortunate all summer when it comes to health. Recently, however, Diontae Johnson has once again become the focal point of discussion. After Mike Tomlin assured the media that Johnson would have been able to re-enter the preseason finale against the Lions, Johnson still hasn’t practiced fully with his team since the shoulder injury, and fans are starting to get nervous.

Losing Johnson would be a significant blow to the Steelers chances of upsetting the Bengals in Cincinnati this Sunday. However, their latest injury could prove to be even more devastating. After Wednesday’s injury report, only Johnson and Marcus Allen showed up — both as limited participants. However, we learned Thursday evening that right tackle, Chukwuma Okorafor, missed practice with a back injury.

Fans are really hoping this isn’t anything serious. Of the five starting offensive linemen, Okorafor probably had the best summer of the group as he looked consistent both in run blocking and pass protection. He’s also the most tenured Steelers offensive lineman on the team despite being just 25 years old.

We are hoping that Okorafor’s back injury is incredibly minor and that the team held him out as a precautionary measure. Sadly, his potential absence this week could prove to be the nail in the coffin for the Steelers Week 1 chances.

Steelers OL can’t afford an injury

As bad as the Steelers starting offensive line is compared to other units around the league, their OL depth might be the very worst in the NFL this year. Kendrick Green is going to be backing up both guard spots in 2022, and he looked atrocious during the summer. Meanwhile, Trent Scott (who was originally cut) returned and is listed as the backup left tackle.

This means that Jesse Davis will be the backup right tackle for the Steelers in 2022… and trust me: he’s a player you hope never has to see the field on offense.

Despite his ample starting experience over the past five years with the Miami Dolphins, Davis simply never got any better from his rookie season. As bad as he was at guard early in his career, Davis is an even bigger liability at tackle. Though Davis has size (6’5 3/4”, 318 pounds), his feet and technique are sloppy, and he’s equally as bad in pass protection as he is at run blocking.

In 2021, Davis finished the season with a 52.5 overall grade, via Pro Football Focus — good for 79th among 83 qualifying offensive tackles. Many considered Okorafor to be the best OL of the group this summer, so going from him to Davis would be a significant loss.

The Cincinnati Bengals also had one of the best defensive fronts in the league last season. Their big step forward on defense helped them make it all the way to the Super Bowl. Davis would be tasked with going up against a quality edge rusher in Sam Hubbard who recorded 7.5 sacks and 17 QB hits last season. On the other side of the football, the Steelers are already going to need to offer help to Dan Moore against Pro Bowl pass rusher, Trey Hendrickson.

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Who knows; we might be getting worked up about nothing here. We hope that Chukwuma Okorafor doesn’t have to miss the season opener against the Bengals because of his back injury that popped up on the practice report. If he does, however, I really feel sorry for Mitch Trubisky this Sunday.