With the team’s 2022 training camp now underway, the tackle may be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ least experienced and guaranteed spot on the team’s roster as they prepare for the regular season. Currently, the two starting tackles are second-year player Dan Moore Jr. and re-signed Chukuma Okorafor. By keeping the duo together after a poor 2021 season, the Steelers appear to be banking on the development of the 23-year-old Moore and the 24-year-old Okorafor, which isn’t exactly an unreasonable strategy.
Adding someone to contend for a starting role or serve as depth is certainly plausible because the Steelers have a history of trading camps after training camp to bolster unsatisfactory positions. A few examples of this include the 2021 trade for linebacker Joe Schobert, the 2017 trade for tight end Vance McDonald, and the 2015 trade for cornerback Brandon Boykin. Given Okorafor’s recent resignation, it’s safe to assume that the starting job is not under much threat. On the other hand, this training camp could just be a test run for Moore.
One intriguing name on the trade block or depth behind the two is Chicago Bears 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins, as the Steelers are unsatisfied with their current starting offensive tackle pair. With trade rumors and six straight missed practices, it looks like Jenkins may not be a Bear in 2022. In that assumption, Justin Melo of Draft Network recently listed the Steelers as one of three potential landing spots for Jenkins.
“Dan Moore Jr. looks set to start at left tackle for the second straight season after struggling as a starter. The former fourth-round pick may not be Pittsburgh’s long-term answer. “Chukuma Okorafor is back to start at right tackle. Okorafor didn’t enjoy a very productive 2021 campaign, getting called for 11 penalties, per Pro Football Focus. Bringing in another development option like Jenkins is smart given the current question marks.
Needless to say, Jenkins makes it very difficult to be the right conversationalist. Considering Okorafor was recently re-signed to a multi-year deal and has been a starter for the past two years, it’s safe to assume the spot was stolen. So, the Jenkins trade would likely see him move to left tackle and compete with Moore Jr. for the starting job.
Positional questions aside, the idea that the Steelers could trade for Jenkins isn’t completely out of bounds. Jenkins was mentioned by the draft analyst Tony Paulin is one of three players selected in the first round of the 2021 draft, along with center Landon Dickerson and Steelers running back Naji Harris..
Jenkins underwent back surgery before the 2021 season, dressing for just six games and starting two. Adding a developmental player in Jenkins for a chance to start after the offseason certainly wouldn’t hurt at the right price. That said, off-field 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 successfully managed difficult personalities in the past,” Melo said of Jenkins’ maturity. “Tomlin’s ability to dominate Antonio Brown for multiple seasons is now seen as a resume-building achievement. The Steelers also drafted wide receiver George Pickins this year, who had similar maturity questions coming out of college. Working under Tomlin’s tutelage could represent the best scenario for Jenkins.
Of course, head coach Mike Tomlin will make sure his management of difficult personalities is done. The comparison to former receiver Antonio Brown, however, is an apples-to-oranges comparison as Jenkins is unproven because Brown had enough production. This is especially important in terms of deciding whether to trade for a player, as concerns could lower the compensation the Steelers are willing to give Jenkins. This makes them unable to win a bidding war. Not to mention, Jenkins may have fallen out of the first round due to a back injury. This injury has kept him out for most of 2021 and will make the Steelers less interested.