Steelers Send Browns Defender to Season-Ending IR After ‘Dirty’ Hit

Cleveland Browns' Anthony Walker is injured on a play during Steelers game.

An area that’s been one of the most criticized for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season seems to be steadily improving.

The offensive line, ranked last overall in 2021, has been its Achilles heel for a few seasons. Ben Roethlisberger, despite having the NFL’s fasted average time to throw (2.27 seconds), was sacked 38 times (seventh-most in his career). Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been sacked 5.0 times over three weeks, tied for the 11th-most.

Pittsburgh’s offensive line improved and, consequently, the run game. It showed a spark against the Cleveland Browns with 104 yards (5.5 yards per carry average) — the most gained all season. Despite a historic 2021 season from rookie running back Najee Harris, who set a Steelers’ single-season rushing record with 1,200 yards, the total offense ranked 29th and run game ranked 30th.

Guard James Daniels said that’s nice, but it’s something the unit needs to sustain.

“We had the momentum, we were moving, the offense was rolling, and we just have to sustain it,” guard James Daniels told reporters after the game.

Putting a damper on the improved performance was a play from a Steelers lineman.

Steelers’ Chuks Okorafor Blasted on Social Media for Anthony Walker Hit

Steelers offensive tackle Chuks Okorafor came under fire for a third-quarter play against linebacker Anthony Walker.

Blocking on a shovel pass to running back Jaylen Warren, Okorafor engaged Walker on a block downfield when the linebacker fell awkwardly to the ground, face-first.

Moments after the play was over, as if jumping off the ropes in a wrestling ring, Okorafor forcefully threw all 320 pounds of his body weight onto Walker’s back.

Walker ended up getting carted off the field with what would later be reported as a season-ending torn quad tendon. After review, it was determined Walker suffered the devastating injury during the initial block and not the hit afterward.

A costly penalty flag was thrown on Okorafor for what was thought to be a late hit, but instead was for ineligible receiver downfield. The penalty wiped out one of the biggest ground gains of the night and put Pittsburgh out of field goal range. They punted two plays later, and Cleveland scored to take a 14-point lead they would never surrender.

Okorafor said after the game that he was just doing his job on the Walker play.

“I don’t know what happened,” Okorafor said. “I was just playing ball.”

Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski said in a Sept. 23 press conference: “I will let the league handle those things,” and had no further comment.

The NFL announces fines and suspensions for infractions on the Saturday following the last game of the week (Monday Night Football). If Okorafor is fined for the hit, his will be among them.

As social media goes, Chuks Okorafor was blasted after the hit went down calling the play “dirty” and “bush league.”

Steelers Offensive Line Improving

The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line has been a rotating cast of characters since Maurkice Pouncey‘s retirement in 2020 and the release of David DeCastro in 2021. Both were cornerstones of Pittsburgh’s line for a decade-plus. It’s tough to build chemistry with your fellow linemen with the constant changes among personnel and coaches.

The newest unit was paid some attention this offseason with key free agent signings at essential positions. Pittsburgh signed former Chicago Bears guard James Daniels and journeyman center Mason Cole (Cardinals, Vikings) in June.

Steelers running back praised the line after his team’s Sept. 22 loss to Cleveland.

“The O-line really played really well,” Harris said. “The past couple weeks, the O-line has played really well. We (quarterbacks, running backs, receivers) are just trying to find our rhythm and groove.”


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