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Thread: 4 players jockeying for Steelers’ starting right tackle job

  1. #11
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    I'll be rooting for Okorafor. I thought he would be starting sometime last season. But he ended up playing when the Steelers employed alot of 3 tackle formations. I watched him and he played well all season.

  2. #12

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    2019 Training Camp Battles: Starting Right Tackle

    By Matthew Marczi
    Posted on July 14, 2019

    It won’t be long now before the Pittsburgh Steelers begin rolling into Latrobe, PA to make Saint Vincent College their home away from home for several weeks as the summer winds down. That is when we know that training camp has begun, and with it the first deep breaths of the 2019 NFL season.

    Everything that we have experienced up until now, from the re-signings, releases, and trades to the draft and all the way through OTAs and minicamp, has been but a preview, the setup, for what is to come next.

    And so we too continue to preview what comes next in a series in which we will highlight several of the battles for roster spots and roles that we expect to see during our time observing in training camp and throughout the preseason.

    Position: Right Tackle

    Up for Grabs: Starting Job

    In the Mix: Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Jerald Hawkins, Zach Banner

    Though I have four names listed, I think the consensus expectation is that it will become boiled down to only two, if it hasn’t been already. The Steelers felt as though they had enough talent at the tackle position where they felt comfortable trading the recently oft-injured Marcus Gilbert this offseason as he entered the final year of his contract.

    That talent primarily consisted of Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor, who combined to start 11 of the 16 games at right tackle last season. Admittedly, Feiler started 10 of them, but the interesting thing to note is that he was actually the healthy scratch for the games that Gilbert missed last year, Okorafor consistently dressing as the swing tackle. Both for Gilbert and then for Feiler, too.

    With Gilbert gone, the Steelers will field a different starting lineup for the season opener for a reason other than injury for the first time since 2015, when Kelvin Beachum was in the final year of his deal with the team. From 2016 to 2018, they had a consistent five-man presence.

    The four players to the left of right tackle still remain intact, and in fact under contract for at least the next two seasons, but a new starter will emerge inevitably now. So far, Feiler took the vast majority of the first-team snaps during the spring, but things should open up much more in training camp.

    I would imagine that, barring somebody else getting thrown into the mix, the Steelers will probably have each of them start two preseason games and work with the first-team line. Feiler is the more experienced player, and performed ably in his 10 starts last year (otherwise he wouldn’t have been allowed to make 10 starts), but Okorafor, in his second season, is the more talented with more upside.

    Okorafor will turn 22 just a short time into training camp. Feiler turned 27 exactly a week ago. It’s worth noting that the latter has inside capability, with respect to his long-term prospects. The team still controls him comfortably for the next two years as an exclusive rights free agent.

  3. #13

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    Steelers’ Matt Feiler pulling away with starting right tackle job

    CHRIS ADAMSKI | Thursday, August 8, 2019

    It was billed as the lone winner-take-all starting position battle during this Pittsburgh Steelers training camp.

    But has Matt Feiler’s strong play on the practice fields of Saint Vincent already rendered the Steelers’ starting right tackle verdict moot?

    The man with perhaps the most input into that decision smiled when asked that question.

    “You know,” new offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett said, “Matt’s done a heck of a job in camp. He’s competed at a high level, and he’s done everything he can do. In my mind right now he’s leading the pack at the starting right tackle position.

    “With that being said, the competition is not over yet — we haven’t played a preseason game yet.”

    That will change 7:30 p.m. Friday when the Steelers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their preseason opener.

    Barring something unforeseen, Feiler will start at right tackle, just as he did for 10 games last season filling in for an injured Marcus Gilbert, who has since been traded. Feiler has run with the first-team offense for the entirety of training camp, too. The only times we haven’t seen him at right tackle are when the Steelers have given him reps at one of the guard spots, purportedly to keep his skills fresh at that position.

    The starting five of Gilbert, David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster and Alejandro Villanueva had spent five seasons together. And the strong-as-a-rock Feiler (hence, his nickname, “Anchor”) appears to have seamlessly fit in just fine.

    “I feel like every day you’ve got to earn everybody’s respect,” Feiler said, “and it just comes with working hard and doing the right things. I feel like for the most part, I’ve been doing that.”

    While Chuks Okorafor, Jerald Hawkins and Zach Banner are still, technically, in the running to start at right tackle, at this point it seemingly would take a total collapse by Feiler (or injury) for the depth chart to change. It hasn’t budged for one rep through organized team activities, minicamp and two weeks of training camp.

    Okorafor and Banner, in particular, have impressed in their own ways, though, and good outings against enemy competition beginning Friday could help them lock down spots on the 53-man roster.

    It is at the backup line spots where arguably the most heated competitions are on the Steelers offense. Okorafor and fourth-year center/guard B.J. Finney are locks to make the team, but the pool of talent for — at most — two other 53-man roster spots is deep. And so is the jockeying for perhaps two practice-squad designations.

    “We have been going through that process,” coach Mike Tomlin said of whittling down the offensive line to a group that will be with the team when it plays New England on Sept. 8. “The natural attrition that is this process creates opportunity for guys to show versatility, for guys to move up and get reps with more veteran groups.

    “I am excited about getting those guys in the stadium and seeing what they can do individually and collectively.”

    Okorafor, Banner and Hawkins are leading the brigade of second-team tackles, with utility backup Finney leading a solid crop of second-team interior linemen such as impressive undrafted rookie Fred Johnson, returning practice-squad player Patrick Morris, first-year former Alabama starting center J.C. Hassenauer and rookie seventh-round pick Derwin Gray.

    Each can probably make a legitimate case he is deserving of a 53-man roster spot. And each will get on-field auditions to impress Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and Sarrett.

    “Having too many good players, it’s always a good problem to have,” Sarrett said. “I think there are guys on our second and third teams that can play elsewhere. And that’s something we will work through these next four games and we will make our decisions from there — what fits us best and we go from there.

    “A lot of guys have looked good out here (at Saint Vincent), but can they do it in the games? It’ll be exciting to find out, and that starts Friday night.”

  4. #14

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    Okorafor had an awful showing at LT last night.


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