The Pittsburgh Steelers have released right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, the team announced on Monday.
Okorafor, 26, had been with the team since the Steelers drafted him in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Western Michigan.
A native of Ibadan, Nigeria, Okorafor became a starter for the Steelers in the 2020 season, when he replaced an injured Zach Banner at right tackle in the season opener against the New York Giants.
Okorafor started every game that season, and then when Banner was unable to return from his injury in 2021, moved back from left tackle to right tackle to allow rookie Dan Moore Jr. to play his more natural position.
Okorafor and Moore remained the Steelers’ starting tackles until midway through the 2023 season, when Okorafor was benched in favor of first-round draft pick Broderick Jones.
Okorafor said he was benched for a comment about not wanting to continue to run plays as the team was hopelessly behind the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8. That ended up being his last Steelers action at tackle, outside of a handful of plays as a sixth offensive lineman down the stretch run of the season.
During locker clean-out day after the Steelers’ playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 15, Okorafor seemed resigned to his fate with the team.
“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.”
Okorafor said he still believes that he’s a starting-caliber NFL tackle.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “I think I’m young. I feel like I’ve got a lot of ball left in me.”
By releasing Okorafor, the Steelers will realize significant salary cap savings for the 2024 season, which was his last year under contract with the team.
Okorafor’s release will save the Steelers $8.75 million in 2024 salary cap space while incurring a $3.08 million dead cap hit.
In addition to Okorafor, the Steelers also announced the release of quarterback Mitch Trubisky and punter Pressley Harvin III on Monday.