Player: Zach Banner
Free Agent Status: Exclusive Rights (Re-Signed)
2018 Salary Cap Hit: $645,000
2018 Season Breakdown:
Zach Banner played zero snaps for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2018 regular season. He was active for zero games. So from that point of view, there is nothing to say in recapping his year. But while he may not have been an on-field participant in meaningful games, or even wore pads for one, that doesn’t mean we’re just going to stare out into the distance. After all, this is an exit meeting.
A former fourth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, Banner ended up not making the team, but he was later signed by the Cleveland Browns, and he was active for half the season that year—granted, during an 0-16 campaign.
Banner, the biological son of Lincoln Kennedy, was released by the Browns in March but was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Panthers. Released again at the end of May, he remained out of football until the Steelers signed him in the middle of August.
He would arrive in time to participate in the final three preseason games, and showed enough to justify to the team that he was worthy of being carried on the 53-man roster, though he remained behind Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor all season, and as mentioned, was never active for a game.
At 6’8” and listed at over 350 points, Banner is a very large man, and so is physically hard to get around. The Steelers see him as somebody that they can develop, so this will be an important offseason for him to potentially climb the depth chart, or at least force his way onto the roster again.
Free Agency Outlook:
Banner is one of the three exclusive rights free agents that the Steelers have already re-signed, an indication of their intentions of keeping him in the mix for 2019. But the room is getting crowded at tackle, even if we consider Feiler being kicked back inside to guard.
Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert are the starters—and it sounds as though Gilbert will be staying put—but there is also Okorafor, entering his second season, and Jerald Hawkins will be returning from injured reserve, so with Banner, that already makes five true tackles—or one too many.
Assuming Gilbert remains on the team and there are no injuries or trades, then there will be an NFL-quality offensive tackle the Steelers will likely have to choose not to carry in 2019. How good the bottom of the position there gets will largely be determined by Shaun Sarrett in his first season as the head offensive line coach.