Picking out the combatants for this week's Classic Jurassic Meat-Eater Matchup was an easy pick, but what a battle it will be. Checking in for the New Orleans Saints, defensive end Cameron Jordan. He'll be lining up and doing close quarter combat with the Steelers right tackle Chuks Okorafor.
Jordan checks in at 6-foot-4, and 287 pounds. His best attributes are his quickness off the ball, explosive and violent hands. As he has aged, Jordan is characterized by his samurai sixth sense. He plays the position with his mind as well as his body. It's difficult to fool him, whether it's a screen pass, a draw or reverse. He draws from a vast wealth of game experience. He's a well decorated veteran, a first-team All-Pro (2017), a two-time second-team All-Pro (2018, 2019) and a seven-time Pro Bowler (2013, 2015, 2017–2021), not to mention making the NFL 2010's All-Decade Team.
Jordan has a low pad level, plays with a high motor and is agile and quick in the trenches. Sometimes he will stand up at the end of the line, like Charles Haley of the 49ers back in my day, as an elephant end. Ather times he'll put the hand on the ground and go.
At one point earlier in his career, Jordan might have tried to sprint the arc around the opponent or go down the middle of the man when he's on the hunt for a quarterback. But with the number of years he's spent in the league, there's a whole lot more sophisticated hand-fighting going on with the 12-year veteran that will make this as much of chess match for Okorafor, rather than a typical head-banger's ball.
Against the run, Jordan is active and powerful at the point of attack. He has a nice inside arm stab, allowing him to set the edge and control the beef-a-lo trying to "people move" him, seemingly one-armed. The Saints will slant and angle their defensive linemen. That makes them more of a mobile target, allowing them to use their speed and quickness to offset huge offensive lines. And Jordan slants and angles with the best of them.
Jordan is an undeniable sack machine. He has posted five double-digit sack seasons in his career and is well on his way to adding another this year, having collared 5.0 quarterback pelts so far. His career total of 112 sacks tells you that he has harassed a number of quarterbacks, not to mention the offensive tackles protecting them, for years.
Still able to run, Jordan can also be used as the trailer on a three-man pass rush. He's also fast enough to turn the corner and get up-field and pressure the QB. He can be the penetrator as well.
Okorafor stands 6-foot-6, and moves the dial to 320-pounds. Chuks has length and good footwork, which keeps him balanced and in proper inside-out positioning in pass pro. Strong with his hands, Chuks has very good balance in motion, which is what a good pass protector seeks. Capable of getting out on the screens and toss pitches to the outside, Chuks is a mobile, active offensive tackle.
Okorafor is at his best when he uses his hands and strong ham hocks to position and "people move" on the inside. Because he is such a good athlete, which is not an oft-used term to describe a meat-eater in the trenches, he has excellent knee-bend ability and can use his strong legs to play with a low pad level. Chuks has excellent body balance when he's digging an opponent out on a double team and does a good job cutting off on the backside because of his quick feet.
For the Steelers to get a win this weekend, they have to control the line of scrimmage. And it will start with the Chuks Okorafor battling Cameron Jordan.