Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: T Zach Banner
Stock Value: Down
I like Zach Banner. But I’m not sure I see a roster spot available for him in 2019, and nothing that has happened this offseason apart from the decision to trade Marcus Gilbert, I think, has made it any more likely that that will happen again after he spent all of 2018 on the 53-man roster, even if mostly as an inactive.
Banner is the biggest (though not the tallest, even if close) lineman the team has on the roster. The fact of the matter is that he is going to be limited to a tackle-only prospect, though perhaps he could play on both the right and left sides. The inability to slide inside for the 6’8” behemoth will not play to his advantage.
Perhaps others didn’t even bat an eye, but I suppose I was mildly surprised that when Mike Tomlin discussed holding a competition for the starting right tackle spot and mentioned Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, and Jerald Hawkins all by name, he didn’t mention Banner.
Presumably, they carried him on the roster all of last season not because they had to but because they thought that they could really of the potential to develop him into something with a full offseason’s worth of work, so why not throw his name out there?
Provided that Hawkins remains healthy, it’s hard to see Banner remaining on the roster. His best shot there would be for either Okorafor or Hawkins to win the starting job at right tackle, and for the other to be the swing tackle, which would allow Feiler to serve as the number two inside reserve, leaving a tackle spot open for him.
As a third-year player, he does retain practice squad eligibility, and especially following the release of R.J. Prince, I couldn’t imagine the team cutting him and not trying to re-sign him to the practice squad, where perhaps he would have spent last season as well if they were comfortable with the risk of losing him.