The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line has been a major negative talking point so far this year, and rightfully so. The inexperience unit has been horrible this year, and is one of several reasons for Pittsburgh’s offensive struggles. After a rough outing in Week 1, right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor has stepped up; he arguably has been the Steelers best offensive lineman over the past two weeks. Unfortunately, that speaks more to the performance of his teammates than his own. Still, he has been serviceable, and now his status is up in the air for Week 4 due to a concussion.
Chukwuma Okorafor Injury a Concern for Steelers in Week 4
The biggest concern regarding Okorafor’s Week 4 status is the NFL’s concussion protocol. Because he is in the protocol, Okorafor’s availability for the game is totally out of his control. It’s not a shoulder or ankle injury where if he can tough it out, we’ll see him out there. He needs to be cleared by the NFL’s doctors. If not, he can’t play. So far this week, Okorafor has not participated in practice. That obviously is not a good sign for his game status. Of course, given the state of their offensive line, the Steelers might be willing to trot Okorafor out there on Sunday without any practice this week. But with each day that goes by without him getting cleared, the more likely it becomes that he will not be cleared by Sunday.
There are two potential replacements for Chukwuma Okorafor if he’s not able to play on Sunday. The more likely candidate at this point seems to be Joe Haeg. A six-year veteran, Haeg came to Pittsburgh last off-season as a depth piece and swing backup tackle. Struggles in the preseason seemed to eliminate any potential chance of Haeg working his way into the starting lineup. Prior to Pittsburgh’s Week 3 game with the Bengals, Haeg hadn’t logged an offensive snap on the year. That changed when he replaced Okorafor against Cincinnati to the tune of 33 snaps and a decent performance. Haeg could potentially boost the Steelers run blocking, which really couldn’t get much worse at this point.
The other option, which probably comes with a higher ceiling, is Zach Banner making his season debut. Banner entered last year as the Steelers right tackle, but tore his ACL in Week 1 and hasn’t played since. He was expected to be a starter again this year, but a setback in his recovery landed him on IR to start the year. This week, he was activated from IR. While this doesn’t mean Banner is returning (the Steelers have 21 days to put him on their 53-man roster), it does mean he is expected to be back soon. He has been participating in practice all week. The team can promote him as late as Saturday if they want him to play on Sunday. He might not be ready, though. If he was, maybe the team would have promoted him by now. Or, maybe they don’t want the Packers to know who is starting. Either way, it would be great to see Banner make his season debut if Chukwuma Okorafor can’t go.
Embed from Getty Images