PITTSBURGH — The 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers season didn’t follow a path that almost anyone could have predicted, but it especially didn’t go the way that tackle Chuks Okorafor thought it would.
Okorafor entered the season in the second year of his-three year free agent contract and the team’s incumbent starter at right tackle, a slot he had held since 2020. The Steelers had spent their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on rookie tackle Broderick Jones, but Jones was expected to eventually take over at left tackle, bookended the line with Okorafor.
Instead, Dan Moore Jr. ended up holding off Jones at left tackle, and Okorafor was benched for Jones mid-season at right tackle. Obviously, that was an unexpected development for the veteran.
“If I had known that was going to be the case, I probably wouldn’t have chose to come back here,” he said. “But at that point, there wasn’t anything I could do about it.”
Going forward, Okorafor said he has no idea what that means for him and the team.
“I have no clue what’s going to happen next year,” he said. “I wish I could tell you now. It’s up to me, my agent, and the guys (in the front office). I can’t tell you what’s going to happen.”
Okorafor is entering the final year of his contract. He is set to earn $4.75 million in salary in 2024, plus a $4 million roster bonus that is due on March 17. The Steelers would have to absorb a $3.083 million dead cap penalty if they release or trade him before that.
Either way, Okorafor remains steadfast that he’s capable of being a starting tackle in the NFL, whether that’s in Pittsburgh or somewhere else.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “I think I’m young. I feel like I’ve got a lot of ball left in me. I don’t know what’s going to happen, if it’s here of if it’s going to be at a different spot.”