Steelers 2-a-days: Is Roosevelt Nix’s job safe? Can Chuks Okorafor nab starting spot?
Editor’s note: From now until the first practice of training camp at Saint Vincent College, the Trib will be running through the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster, assessing each player’s outlook for the 2019 season. The breakdown will go through the roster in mostly-alphabetical order, (at least) two per day, between June 14 and July 26.
FB ROOSEVELT NIX
Experience: 5th season
Contract status: $1.688 million cap hit in 2019, the second of a four-year deal
2019 outlook: Nix in 2015 was one of the more surprising examples of a player who made a Steelers’ 53-man roster — a converted college defensive end who was in the Falcons’ camp the year before and who was signed by the Steelers as a fullback (a position they already had someone they kept at in Will Johnson). But since, Nix has become a coaches’ favorite and special-teams dynamo in addition to dutifully serving as the fullback when needed. Nix made the 2017 Pro Bowl as a fullback, but it probably could have been for the designated special-teamer spot, too. He signed a four-year contract last year, so at age 27 he’s working his way up the ladder as one of the longest-tenured Steelers (only eight active players have been on the 53-man roster longer). That said, the Steelers have experimented with rookie Sutton Smith at fullback, and Jaylen Samuels said he’s comfortable playing there, as well. It would be shocking if a healthy Nix doesn’t make the team, but at least the Steelers have given themselves some alternatives in the unlikely event Nix gets complacent.
The Roosevelt Nix hat trick.
2. Forced fumble
3. Punt fight pic.twitter.com/L7kLXTwDPz
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 10, 2018
OT CHUKS OKORAFOR
Experience: 2nd season
Contract status: $823,091 cap hit in 2019, signed through 2021
2019 outlook: The Steelers were elated to get Okorafor in last year’s draft, and he’s done nothing so far to suggest that he’s not an NFL starting-caliber tackle. But he still hasn’t seized a job, either. And Okorafor enters camp as the underdog to Matt Feiler in the open competition for who will start at right tackle. Still, the Steelers were sure to get Okorafor — a raw talent because he took up the sport later in life and played at Western Michigan — plenty of playing time as an extra tackle last season, and he remains in their longer-term plans. At worst, it would seem he would be the top backup “swing tackle” in 2019, though Jerald Hawkins and Zach Banner also are in the running. Okorafor slimmed down over the offseason, and it will be interesting to see how his development — if at all — is affected by the loss of respected offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
Seeing Chuks Okorafor for the first time in almost five months, it stands out almost immediately. https://t.co/YaHqVewyXC
— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) June 7, 2019
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .