After a questionable performance in week one against the Buffalo Bills, the question surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, was how would he fare against standout pass rusher Maxx Crosby and the rest of the Las Vegas Raiders defensive line.
In review of his performance, there were moments when he was unable to anchor effectively in pass protection, or to create space for running back Najee Harris to gain meaningful yards. In Okorafor's defense, this was seemingly an issue with all the entire offensive line in this contest, which failed to put together drives and sustain time of possession. Yet, Okorfor finished the game with a grade of 71.3, by far the highest on the Steelers offensive line, while allowing 3 quarterback pressures on 56 total snaps (42 pass blocking).
Pass Protection On A Stunt
In this sequence, Okorafor shows textbook technique when facing a stunt between two defensive linemen. In this case, the Raiders left defensive end, and edge rusher do a good job disguising the stunt.
Notice how Okorafor maintains a low pad level coming out of his stance; this not only allows him to get the proper hand placement, his level allows him to anticipate the stunt. In addition to keeping his pad level low, he does an excellent job keeping his feet active and moving laterally while anchoring. The combination of all these techniques resulted in him successfully neutralizing any threat of quarterback pressure on his side.
Second-level Run Blocking
It is no secret that run blocking has been a weakness for Okorafor in the past. In this sequence, however, Okorafor shows that when he is fully engaged, he can be an effective run blocker.
On this first-down run by Harris, Okorafor shows his mobility by coming hard out of his stance, engaging with the right inside linebacker, and sealing him outside, giving ample room for Harris to run through for the first down. One would think this type of assignment would be better suited for Trai Turner. In this case, he did a fantastic job imposing himself physically against the Raiders linebacker.
Chuks Takes On Maxx Crosby
One of the questions heading into their contest against the Raiders, was how would he fare against a high-level pass rusher like Maxx Crosby. Okorafor not only acquitted himself well, he relegated Crosby to just two tackles, one of them for loss, and five quarterback hits. Considering he dominated the Baltimore Ravens in week one with four tackles, two sacks, and five quarterback hits, Okorafor did an excellent job reducing his production.
One of the keys to his success was his hand placement. In pass protection situations, Okorafor showed a knack for getting the hand placement necessary to neutralize Crosby's spin move seen in this clip. Most notably, his ability to stay squared and balanced throughout the sequence was impressive, as Crosby had no path to quarterback.
Though his performance had its fair share of mistakes, he was much improved from week one, which is encouraging going forward. For the Steelers, the key to success begins with their offensive line. Despite their struggles in the first two weeks, it is players like Okorafor that can help turn things around for the better.