When asked if he was happy about his offensive tackles at the recent NFL owners conference Mike Tomlin offered a curious response, “Happy is a dangerous word. I’m comfortable.”
Mike Tomlin’s the man who never seeks to “take comfort” in style points, moral victories or silver linings offered by statistics drawn from losing performances. Yet he’s “comfortable” with his tackles.
Does that mean the Steelers will not or should not seek to strengthen themselves at tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft? Let’s take a look.
Steelers Depth Cart at: The Starters
In the spring of 2018 the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL was almost taken for granted. With Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert having moved away from their “plug and patch” offensive line building philosophy and Mike Munchak providing tutelage a strong line seemed to be a given.
But that line was aging, and the Steelers took their first steps towards renewal by drafting Chuks Okorafor with third round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. For two years, Chukwuma Okorafor only started two games. One in 2018 against the Denver Broncos that matched him up with Von Miller and another in 2019 against the Los Angeles Rams that pitted him opposite Aaron Donald.
Okorafor did well in those match ups, but lost the competition to start at right guard in 2020 to Zach Banner, but when Banner got hurt, he stepped in and started 15 straight games. Chukwuma Okorafor returned to start 16 games in 2021 at right tackle. The conventional wisdom at the time was that Okorafor had done “OK” as a starter.
- Regardless of what other thought the Steelers resigned Okorafor to a 3 year contract in 2022.
Starting opposite Okorafor at left tackle is Dan Moore. A lot of fans are down on Moore, but how many 4th round picks start as rookies at left tackle on opening day? Moore did. He started there all year, and unlike fellow rookie starter Kendrick the Steelers saw no need to replace him.
As Dave Schofield of Behind the Steel Curtain points out, after two years Dan Moore might not project as the next Tony Boselli, but his body of work at this point in his career matches up nicely with predecessors Kelvin Beachum and Alejandro Villanueva.
Steelers Offensive Tackle Depth Chart: The Backups
The cupboard is pretty thin here folks. The Steelers recently signed Le’Raven Clark to provide depth. And that’s it. They don’t even have any guys on “futures contracts.”
Le’Raven Clark does bring 64 games and 18 starts worth of experience for those of you taking notes.
The Steelers 2023 Draft Needs @ Offensive Tackle
Mike Tomlin might be “comfortable” with his two starting tackles but there’s no way he can be comfortable with his depth. And there’s a reason why the Steelers signed Chuks Okorafor to a 3 year contract – offensive tackles are very expensive to sign on the open free agent market.
- It is much, much more cost-effective to draft then and then resign them.
While Okarfor and Dan Moore are legitimate starting NFL tackles, both upgradeable in the medium term and in the immediate term the Steelers need depth as in, they need a kid who can step in and play in the event of an opening-day injury, as their need at offensive tackle going into the 2023 NFL Draft is Extreme.