Football Hall of Famer and sport analyst Shannon Sharpe once said, "Luck, is when preparation meets opportunity".
In many ways, this encapsulates how third-year offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor found himself in the starting right tackle position. No matter the occurrences that took place for the opportunity to present itself, Okorafor has made the best of it and has performed at a high-level ever since.
On Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, Okorafor would have one of the toughest assignments of his career; facing arguably the best defensive end in the league in Myles Garrett. Considering that Okorafor has faced few opposing linemen with Garrett's natural abilities, one would assume the task would be too much for him to handle.
Instead, Okorafor rose to the occasion and played a major role in relegating him to just one sack and one quarterback hit. Okorafor's attention to details and fundamentals are strengths that could secure him the position at starting tackle in the near future.
Taking Garrett Off The Arc
When it comes to winning one-on-one battles in the trenches, pad level is important. When playing against someone who possesses Garrett natural abilities, establishing the proper base and a lower pad level is necessary, in order to prevent him winning outside leverage and taking the arc.
In this situation Okorafor is seen at the right tackle position, with Garrett positioned at the outside end spot in 6-technique in a hybrid 3-4 front. When the ball is snapped, note the initial kick step outside; by doing this, he covers just enough ground to cut a comfortable portion of the arc. Garrett responds by taking a wide step outside in order to regain leverage on the outside. Notice how his chop attempt is neutralized by Okorafor's hand placement. Lastly, his lateral movement is key in this entire sequence, as he is able to guide Garrett completely off the arc. This entire sequence is an exhibition of the type of high-level technique Okorafor possesses.
Getting Some Assistance
During the course of the game, Okorafor received timely help from his fellow linemen, most notably, rookie guard Kevin Dotson. For this particular game, any advantage Okorafor could receive against a lineman like Garrett, could go a long way in neutralizing him and keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger clean.
In this situation, the Browns defense is showing a 4-3 front, with Okorafor positioned at the right tackle position. In a very similar manner as in the first clip, Garrett takes a wide step outside to win the arc. Once again, Okorafor utilizes both lateral movement and proper pad level to neutralize his pass rush on the outside. For good measure, Dotson gives him a good shove just in case he decides to take an inside path. This was a battle won with some assistance from his teammate.
Lone Sack Allowed
Nearing the end of the first half, Garrett was eventually able to break through and register his first and only sack of the game. Considering his explosive first step and athleticism, one can only hold Garrett for so long until he finds his way into the backfield.
In this sequence, Garrett uses a little deception in order to create an opening inside. As the ball is snapped, Garrett executes a jab step outside as Okorafor kicks out of his stance. Note how he uses that first step as a means of deceiving the outside pass rush. By the time Okorafor realized what Garrett was doing, he had an open lane inside; not even Dotson or running back James Conner could keep him from taking down Roethlisberger in the backfield.
One of the big reasons for the stability of the Steelers offensive line, has been the play of Okorafor. No matter what it took to gain the starting position, he has demonstrated his ability to play against top-flight competition. Once upon a time, Okorafor's status on the team was uncertain. Yet with every game, he continues to establish himself as one of the most reliable players on the roster.