We are less than a week away from the 2021 NFL Draft. One of the more speculated positions for the Pittsburgh Steelers is addressed either of their offensive tackle spots. We’ve seen the team connected to no less than a dozen different tackles within the first two rounds of the draft. It’s safe to say most people have the tackle spot fairly high on the Steelers’ draft to-do list.
But is this necessary?
The Steelers are returning two players which they let compete for the starting right tackle spot a year ago, and they could both hold down either tackle spot this year.
Both Zach Banner and Chuks Okorafor spent time as the Steelers starting right tackle in 2020. With Okorafor making starts in 2018 and 2019 in injury relief, and Banner spending the 2019 season as the Steelers’ jumbo tight end. Flash back to training camp 2020 where one of the biggest storylines —not involving Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow— was the open competition at right tackle. Matt Feiler had kicked back inside to guard, meaning Banner and Okorafor would duke it out for the starting role at tackle. Banner would end up winning the job, but would quickly tear his ACL in the ‘sticky’ turf of MetLife Stadium in Week 1. Okorafor would start the rest of the way.
Okorafor had a solid season for himself in 2020, nothing flashy for an offensive lineman, but he was definitely solid in relief. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Okorafor played 1,033 snaps and allowed just three sacks. Banner, in very limited playing time, looked solid, not allowing a single sack in 59 snaps. Both Banner and Okorafor are known as road grading tackles that excel in the run game. For a team like the Steelers looking to improve its rushing attack, they could use these talents.
Both tackles had a mid-round resume when they entered the NFL. Banner was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 draft by the Indianapolis Colts, while Okorafor was a third round pick of the Steelers in 2018. Not to mention, both men are behemoths. Banner standing 6’8” and Okorafor 6’6” respectfully. They have always had the talent, and the size, to be starting tackles in this game, and in 2021 both should be developed into the best version’s of what they can be as NFL players.
When it comes to positioning the tackles and determining who will play on the right and who will play on the left, it comes down to history. Banner has basically been exclusively a right tackle dating back to his University of Southern California days. While Chuks was the left tackle for the Western Michigan Broncos. The Steelers always want their reserve tackles to be able to play either spot, so there should be confidence they could swap to either side. Personally, I would want them to play the position they are most comfortable with.
It is also important to note the Steelers did bring in Joe Haeg from the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be the team’s new reserve tackle/jumbo tight end. They also have an additional five other names on the offensive tackle depth chart. So. it is fair to say the position is pretty full.
While the Steelers could be forced into taking a tackle if someone unexpected falls into their laps, I don’t think they have to take a tackle with their first round pick. They could still draft one to try to improve the spot and cover for Okorafor who will become a free agent in 2022, but I would still caution that tackle isn't an explicit need. The Steelers should take advantage of a strong tackle class, but there's no need to rush the pick.
But what do you think? Do the Steelers already have their tackle spots figured out? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.