Believe it or not, but the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have a lot of training camp battles going on right now at Heinz Field. Sure, there are some battles for depth positions, think on the running back and quarterback depth charts, but battles for starting jobs are tough to find.
The most discussed, and highly debated, camp battle in 2020 would be none other than at right tackle between Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor. This isn’t a battle for who will be the swing tackle, but who will be the anchor on the right side of the starting line.
A contest for a starting job. A rare situation within the Steelers organization.
Many are wondering when the winner of this battle will be declared. After all, the Steelers will be heading to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to play the New York Giants in Week 1 in just a few weeks. The answer to that question is you won’t be finding out anytime soon.
The Steelers seem determined to give both players every, and all, opportunities to prove themselves worthy of the starting gig...even if it means going right up to the week of preparation before Week 1.
Offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett met with the media via Zoom on Friday, and stated how this camp battle is no where near completed. This per Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Steelers OL coach Shaun Sarrett said the competition between Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner at RT could go up to the week before the first game against the Giants.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 21, 2020
Following Friday’s practice, Mike Tomlin was asked about the position battle, and Sarrett’s comments. He doubled down on the patience the coaching staff is taking with the two players.
“We’ll go until we get definitive clarity. We’ve got two really good capable men there—guys that are not new to us and new to the challenge.” Tomlin said. “So we’re excited about watching those guys sort themselves out and we’re looking for as many ways as we can to create an atmosphere where they can definitively separate themselves. When we get to that spot we’ll know it. But until then, we’ll continue to work to create opportunities for them to distinguish themselves.”
After all, there is no need to declare a victor at this point, but without a preseason you have to wonder how it will impact not just the battle at right tackle, but position battles across the board.
Gone are the repetitions against unfamiliar opponents which will help spawn a roster spot. Gone are the opportunities to put your best foot forward in a moment when it isn’t a practice setting, but a game. Gone are the chances to prove yourself worthy of being a part of the 53-man game day roster.
This is the 2020 NFL season, and everything about it is unique, including how the Steelers are handling highly competitive position battles in training camp.
Who will win the right tackle job? That is anyone’s guess right now, but don’t expect to hear a definitive answer from anyone anytime soon.
For the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they roll through training camp and prepare for the regular season stay tuned to BTSC.