It was a feel good story last year when TE Jake McGee stuck to the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad. He was a mid-camp add, attempting to learn so much in so little time. But he played well and hung around the team all season. McGee would’ve had a puncher’s chance to make today’s 53 had it not been for a torn Achilles suffered in the spring. Zach Banner has taken things to a new level.
Signed August 12th, ten days after McGee was in 2017, Banner has made the Steelers 53 man roster. Credit to Dave Bryan for calling that. With that, he’s Mike Munchak’s newest lump of clay.
To call him a “lump” is almost an unfair characterization. Yes, he and Dan McCullers are going to be hell on the poor aircraft that carry them to road games. But take take one look at him and see you a player who appears to be in good shape. He’s still a house at 362 pounds but carries that weight well, as Kevin Colbert pointed out in August.
“He’s got his weight under control at this point,” Colbert said of Banner. “You know, he’s had a few weight issues in his past and he’s just a big person. He’s actually six-foot-eight and he weighed in at 362, I believe it was yesterday. And that’s really lean for a six-eight guy. Big Al’s right at 6-9, but Al’s a little bit longer and leaner, you know, he’s going to be in that 330 range.”
On the field, Banner legitimately played well. Far from perfect but more like the 4th round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, not the guy there who quickly got himself run out of town.
His move started against the Tennessee Titans, as we wrote at the time. Banner received second team work, held his own, and showed the stamina to log heavy playtime. He played the entire second half against Tennessee and nearly all of the finale against Carolina, only sitting out the 4th quarter.
There’s still a ways to go with his game. His size is an asset in pass protection but he’s beatable, especially against inside counters. And he obviously hasn’t done any of this in a regular season game as a Steeler; he has all of 27 regular season snaps under his belt.
But the Steelers love physically imposing tackles with a drive to succeed. If anyone is going to make him work, it’s Mike Munchak.