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Steelers Chukwuma Okorafor needs to migrate to the other side of the offensive line

Steelers Chukwuma Okorafor spent his first season as a starter at right tackle, but his future is at left tackle.

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a 2021 off season filled with uncertainty and the promise of substantial roster turnover. Some moves made will be necessary and made willingly, such as Vance McDonald's recent retirement. Additional retirements have been rumored but as of yet unconfirmed. The Steelers long list of unrestricted and restricted free agents, plus the team's current salary cap constraints, assures anything but another normally boring Steelers off season.

There are certainly no shortage of individuals in Steelers Nation willing to let their voices be heard concerning possible remedies to help heal the Steelers numerous ailments, and the suggestions have arrived both fast and furious. There has been one plan of attack universally agreed upon by every Steelers fanatic; the Steelers need to improve their offensive line by whatever means necessary.

Prior to the 2020 season opener, the Steelers shuffled two positions along the line while only adding one new participant. They boldly moved Matt Feiler from right tackle to left guard to replace the retired Ramon Foster, a unsuccessful maneuver by all accounts. Feiler was an effective right tackle, probably the Steelers best lineman in 2019, but struggled with the move to guard. The Steelers had the best of intentions, but the move ended up weakening two positions along the line and impacted the chemistry desperately needed within the unit.

Zach Banner was awarded the starting right tackle position after supposedly winning the training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor. I say supposedly because I believe the final decision came down to the fact that Okorafor had collegiate experience manning both tackle spots, while Banner is strictly a right tackle due to his limited athleticism and movement. That way if starting LT Alejandro Villanueva went down with an injury at any point Okorafor could fill in without impacting two positions along the line. Despite the Steelers logical reasoning, it mattered not. Banner was lost for the season in the opener against the New York Giants, and Okorafor started the rest of the year at RT.

Okorafor enjoyed a mixed bag of success in his first season as a starter. His effectiveness fluctuated greatly depending on the opponent; which is to be expected from a first time starter, but also by who was lining up beside him. Surprisingly, his best performances occurred with bright eyed rookie RG Kevin Dotson lined up next to him. So much for the ideal of experience being a steading influence on a young newcomer. The jury is still out on who benefited the most from the pairing, Dotson or Okorafor. Based on the benefit of a season's worth of evidence at both guard positions, Dotson is the real deal and a force to be reckoned with along the Steelers offensive line, preferably at right guard. Is a David Decastro trade out of the realm of possibility?

Make no mistake about it, Okorafor was drafted by the Steelers with the left tackle position in mind. At 6'6" and 320 lbs, coupled with superior athleticism and lateral movement, Okorafor is the prototypical prospect at left tackle. With the majority of NFL QBs being right handed, the left tackle requires the athleticism necessary to protect their QB's blindside from the opponent's best pass rusher. Whereas right tackles typically utilize more power aspects of the position, left tackles predominantly rely on superior length and agility to mirror opposing pass rushers. Okorafor was playing out of position on the right side, with a skill set better suited for the left.

That is the primary reason I believe that the Steelers would be better served focusing on the top guard and center prospects prior to the 2021 NFL Draft. Maybe even their top running back prospects if one happens to fall into their laps unexpectedly. Truthfully even the best RB prospect will struggle to produce consistently unless the Steelers improve the power and push of their offensive line. No one is suggesting the Steelers put the cart before the horse by selecting a top running back and sticking them behind a line incapable of NFL caliber run blocking, but who says they can't make the necessary improvements in one off season. Especially when you consider the possible positive impact of free agency and trades.

While it's impossible to predict all the inevitable changes along the Steelers offensive line, the need for said changes and improvement is undeniably necessary and imminent. The Steelers are expected to attempt to resign either Zach Banner or Matt Feiler; possibly both whereas Banner should be relatively inexpensive seeing he is a as yet unproven performer coming off injury, to man the right tackle spot with someone familiar with their schemes.

The good news is that another one of the necessary changes is a no brainer who already resides on the roster. Chuks Okorafor's time to take over at left tackle has arrived, and the time is now.