Positional battles are always one of the most exciting things to watch during training camp and the preseason. We knew that there were going to be some fun battles to watch this August when it came to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Perhaps their biggest is the battle for the starting left tackle position.
Offensive tackle has been a position of need for Pittsburgh for several years now. During the 2023 offseason, they addressed this position in the first round of the NFL Draft for the first time since taking Jamain Stephens back in 1996.
We know that it's just a matter of time before Broderick Jones makes his way to the starting lineup. The Steelers moved up to the 14th selection to draft the athletic tackle out of Georgia, and nowadays, teams don't usually take long before rookies are thrown to the wolves.
So far, the left tackle battle in Pittsburgh has been an excellent one to watch. Since Pittsburgh drafted Jones, Dan Moore Jr. has reworked his diet and has worked tirelessly to ensure that he shows improvement in 2023. Through most of training camp, these two players have been relatively close, but Moore doesn't let the competition go to his head. Following practice, he routinely helps Jones work on his technique.
But as fun as this battle has been to watch, perhaps the Steelers should be focused more on the other offensive tackle position.
Steelers could have a weak link at right tackle
The player on the starting offensive line that nobody seems to be talking about right now is Chukwuma Okorafor. Throughout Steelers training camp, Pittsburgh's tackles have taken their lumps against talented pass rushers, and Okorafor is no exception. In fact, there's a chance he could be the weakest link of the whole offensive line in 2023.
During his first preseason game against the Buccaneers, Okorafor looked completely out of place. Despite playing against backups, he was humiliated on a few of his reps -- including one that caused Kenny Pickett to get hit as he scrambled to throw the ball.
His dismal outing in the preseason opener should be enough to have Mike Tomlin concerned. Against the Buccaneers, Okorafor churned out an overall grade of just 38.5, per Pro Football Focus. His pass-block grade of 6.5 was more than a bit concerning.
It's important to take this in context. Okorafor only played 10 snaps in the opener, and it's very possible he could have turned things around had he played a full game. At the same time, this is a player in his sixth NFL season, and these types of struggles should not be happening still.
Obviously, Broderick Jones is going to be the future at left tackle. But what about the right tackle position? Even though Okorafor is on his second contract with the team, he has not shown enough improvement over the years to be considered the future at the position.
While Okorafor is the most experienced member of the group in terms of games started, it almost makes you wonder if the Steelers wouldn't be better off starting Jones at left tackle to begin the season and allowing Dan Moore Jr. to duke it out with Okorafor at right tackle (the position Moore will likely be playing in the future).
At the end of the day, Mike Tomlin is going to do what he thinks gives him the best chance to win here and now. That probably means starting Moore at left tackle and Okorafor at right tackle to begin the season. If Okorafor struggles early in the season, fans are going to be wishing that Pittsburgh had not delayed the inevitable.
At this rate, it may only be a matter of time before Chuks Okorafor is demoted. Everyone is talking about the battle at left tackle, but maybe Tomlin and the Steelers should move the battle over to the right tackle position soon.