It may not have been pretty so far this season, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are 5-3 and sit in a playoff spot entering Week 10. This comes after the Steelers beat the Tennessee Titans 20-16 back in Week 9. There was one absence on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage, and that was offensive lineman Chuks Okorafor. But why was the 26-year-old not in the starting lineup and on the bench?
According to DK Pittsburgh Sports' Dejan Kovacevic, Okorafor said aloud that the Steelers should have kneeled out the clock instead of running play with under two minutes to go in the team's 20-10 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The thing is, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin heard his comments.
But there's much more to the story. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says that Okorafor voiced his displeasure of the team using the same plays on offense despite trailing 17-3 in the third quarter.
Chuks Okorafor benched by Mike Tomlin after questioning Steelers coaches during Week 8 loss to Jaguars
"After the Steelers rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries — certainly not one of the meager performances — Okorafor was upset the offense was using the same plays despite trailing the entire game, including 17-3 in the third quarter," writes Dulac. "It is unclear to whom Okorafor directly vented his anger and what else might have been said or done. But apparently it was such an outburst that his actions were referred to as “significant” by Tomlin, a rare public admission by the Steelers coach."
Okorafor was benched in Week 9 in favor of rookie and 2023 first-round pick Broderick Jones, and he expects that to remain the case for the team's game on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
“Right now I’m taking it day by day,” Okorafor said, h/t Dulac. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in three weeks or next year. Next year us next year. I’m still trying to figure out how to get back out there.”
Through nine games this season, Okorafor played 426 snaps on offense, where he allowed 11 pressures, nine quarterback hurries, and two sacks while committing seven penalties, per Pro Football Focus.
As for Jones, he played 64 snaps at right tackle in Week 9, where he allowed one pressure and one quarterback hurry, per Pro Football Focus.
It will remain to be seen if Okorafor will get back in the starting lineup any time soon. As of now, it probably won't be happening against the Packers on Sunday.