With Team 2022 training camp now underway, tackle is perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers’ least experienced and least proven position on the team’s current roster as they prepare for the regular season. Currently, the two projected starters at tackle are sophomore Dan Moore Jr. and re-signed Chukwuma Okorafor. By keeping the tackle duo together after a poor 2021 season, the Steelers appear to be banking on developing 23-year-old Moore and 24-year-old Okorafor, which isn’t an unreasonable strategy on its face.
An addition of someone to challenge for the starting role, or to serve as depth, is certainly plausible as the Steelers have a history of post-training camp trades to solidify less than satisfactory positions. Some examples of this include their 2021 trade for linebacker Joe Schobert, 2017 trade for tight end Vance McDonald, and 2015 trade for corner Brandon Boykin. Given that Okorafor recently resigned, it’s safe to assume that his starting job isn’t in great danger. On the other hand, this training camp may just be a test for Moore.
An interesting name on the trading block to watch in the event the Steelers aren’t happy with the current starting offensive tackle pair, or the depth behind the duo, is Chicago Bears 2021 second-round pick tackle Teven Jenkins. With trade rumors swirling and six consecutive missed practices, it seems likely that Jenkins won’t be a bear in 2022. With that assumption, Justin Melo of The Draft Network recently listed the Steelers as one of three landing spots for Jenkins.
“Dan Moore Jr. looks set to start at left tackle for the second straight season after struggling as a rookie. The former fourth-round selection may not be Pittsburgh’s long-term blindside answer,” Melo said of the Steelers’ tackle position. “Chukwuma Okorafor returns to start at right tackle. Okorafor hasn’t had the most successful campaign in 2021 either, being called up for 11 penalties, per Pro Football Focus. Bringing another developer option such as Jenkins would be wise considering the question marks that are present.
Needless to say, Jenkins being a right tackle makes for an awkward fit. Considering Okorafor recently re-signed to a multi-year deal and started in the past two years, it’s hard to imagine his spot being stolen. Therefore, a trade for Jenkins also likely sees him move to left tackle and compete with Moore Jr. for the starting spot.
Positional issues aside, the suggestion that the Steelers could trade for Jenkins isn’t entirely off the mark. Jenkins was cited by draft analyst Tony Pauline as one of three players the Steelers were locked with in the first round of the 2021 draft alongside center Landon Dickerson and the Steelers’ actual pick in running back Najee Harris.
Jenkins underwent back surgery ahead of the 2021 season, dressing for just six games and starting in two. Adding a developing player to Jenkins with an opportunity to start after a recuperating offseason certainly wouldn’t hurt at the right price. That said, off-court concerns will be a key factor in whether the Steelers are interested in Jenkins.
“There have been questions about Jenkins’ maturity and overall approach, but Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been good at dealing with difficult personalities before,” Melo said of Jenkins’ maturity. . “Tomlin’s ability to keep Antonio Brown in check for multiple seasons is now considered a resume-building accomplishment. The Steelers also drafted wide receiver George Pickens this year, who had similar maturity issues coming out of college. Working under Tomlin’s tutelage may be the best-case scenario for Jenkins.
Certainly, head coach Mike Tomlin’s handling of difficult personalities proves that it has been done. The comparison to former catcher Antonio Brown, however, is an apples-to-oranges comparison, as Brown had the adequate production while Jenkins was unproven. This is especially important in the context of determining whether to trade for a player, as these concerns are likely to decrease the compensation the Steelers are willing to give for Jenkins. They are therefore unlikely to win a bidding war. Not to mention that Jenkins may have fallen out of the first round due to back injury issues. That injury is also what sidelined him the majority of 2021 and is likely to deter interest from the Steelers.