2017 fourth-round pick Zach Banner is already on his fourth different NFL team, but he’s surely hoping that it will also be his last, and the one that sticks throughout the remainder of his career. Originally drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, he failed to make the 53-man roster but was picked up by the Cleveland Browns, dressing for eight games with them.
The Brown let him go in the spring, however, after which he was claimed by the Carolina Panthers. He was then waived at the eve of training camp and remained unsigned until the Pittsburgh Steelers gave him a call and brought him in in the middle of August.
He spent the next couple of weeks doing everything that he could to prove himself in the preseason, and he showed enough for the team to feel justified in carrying him on the 53-man roster for the entire season, even though he was never asked to dress for a game as the number four tackle.
In spite of the fact that their primary right tackle missed the vast majority of the season, and even their top backup in replacing him had to miss one start as well, Banner still never dressed, as during that game, Matt Feiler dressed as rookie Chukwuma Okorafor’s backup.
But (almost) everything should be open to him as he heads into his first full season with the Steelers. While it sounds likely that the team doesn’t intend to release starter Marcus Gilbert, Feiler will likely kick back inside due to the wealth of depth that now exists outside.
Aside from Okorafor as ostensibly the top backup, there is Jerald Hawkins, who was expected to be the swing tackle, replacing Chris Hubbard, in 2018 until he suffered a season-ending injury in the spring. And then there is Banner.
Banner is a talented and imposing player who has struggled with maintaining a lower body weight—he is listed at 360 pounds at 6’8”—but is said to be maintaining a proper diet at this point. If he can retain his physique, then the Steelers could legitimately have another quality young tackle to work with.
Perhaps even enough to contend with Okorafor and Hawkins—and Feiler—to be the swing tackle in 2019. The truth is that we still don’t know a lot about him because he hasn’t been here for very long.
Even when he came in late in training camp and got into a couple of preseason games, it’s worth keeping in mind that he had been out of the NFL for almost a month and a half at that point. A new season is a new start for everybody, and that often means more for a player in Banner’s position than most others.