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Steelers Tackle Explains Why He Was Benched



Steelers OT Chuks Okorafor
Steelers OT Chuks Okorafor warms up before the Jaguars game, Oct. 29, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers benched Chuks Okorafor unexpectedly against the Titans. But that will not change after a strong performance from Broderick Jones, who earned a promotion up the depth chart at right tackle. However, the mystery of why Okorafor sat down is a winding one. No one knows what Okorafor said, but he pointed to ‘acting out’ as the reason for his benching.

“It was just something I said,” Okorafor said. “You know, just with the way the game was going last week, I said something I shouldn’t have said. Just being in year six, I can’t act out the way I was acting out. It was mostly that and nothing else. I don’t know what’s going to happen next week. I hope I’m going to be out there with the guys, but I don’t know, it’s not my call.”

Steelers OT Chuks Okorafor

Steelers OT Chuks Okorafor against the Titans, Nov. 2, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

On Wednesday, Okorafor expected Jones to start against the Packers. The practice would confirm those suspicions. But Okorafor did not disclose what he said that got him sat down after the Jaguars game. Regardless, the nightmare of any NFL player is to go from a critical role on a team to being drawn out of the game plan altogether. Okorafor is experiencing just that after the Steelers benched him.

“I mean, no one wants to be benched,” Okorafor said. “But I can only do what I can do. I can only do what I’m told and I have to take it day by day.”

Why Was Chuks Okorafor Benched?

Jones and Okorafor are listed as co-starters on the depth chart this week, but head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that he expects Jones to start again this week but wouldn’t commit to a plan for the position beyond that. Jones has also started one game at left tackle this season in place of an injured Dan Moore Jr. One thing Okorafor is sure about is that he was not benched due to performance. He talked with Tomlin extensively about that possibility and brushed it off thoroughly.

“I’ve talked to coach T, I’ve talked to my coach and all that,” Okorafor said. “That doesn’t seem to be the case. And I mean, I feel like that wasn’t the case at all. So all I can do now is take it day by day and see how things play out.”

At some point, Tomlin wanted to see a ‘spark’ from the offense. After the game on Thursday, that’s what his explanation for benching Okorafor was, but on Tuesday, he acknowledged that Okorafor acting out was a ‘significant factor’ in his benching. As for what he said, it is unlikely we will ever know the answer to that. But Jones has now impressed in two games, including his start against the Ravens at left tackle. It seems likely he will now enter the starting rotation full-time. As for Okorafor, his easiest way back to the lineup other than injury would be that Moore continues to struggle, making Pittsburgh slide Jones back to left tackle.

In 269 pass-blocking snaps, Okorafor has allowed two sacks, including one where he got bullrushed against Travon Walker of Jacksonville. Jones has a test against Lukas Van Ness and Rashan Gary for the Packers, who will test Pittsburgh’s offensive line after an intense week.