Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: T Zach Banner
Stock Value: Up
You know, I haven’t actually heard anything from practice, and it probably wouldn’t make a difference either way, but it wouldn’t stun me if we see Zach Banner dress as the number three tackle on Sunday against the New England Patriots.
It can easily be argued that Banner, whom the Steelers picked up in August last year when they needed a body at tackle, outperformed the second-year Chukuma Okorafor, who was competing with Matt Feiler to be the starter at right tackle.
Banner, meanwhile, was fighting for a roster spot, ostensibly with the likes of Jerald Hawkins, whom the Steelers were able to trade in an exchange of late-round picks, and Derwin Gray, a rookie whom they managed to place on the practice squad. Gray spent his summer playing guard rather than tackle, though.
But the son of Lincoln Kennedy not only made the roster, he played very well overall, and there are a couple of indications in particular that I picked up during the preseason that lead me to believe the team is high enough on him that they might consider dressing him.
For one thing, Okorafor’s playing time seemed to be of the nature of the team trying to learn about him and seeing what he can do. The Steelers, I got the impression, may be more comfortable in knowing who Banner is. Additionally, in the rare instances in which they ran with a tackle-eligible, that player was Banner. Okorafor did it last year. At the least, they wanted to see if Banner could do it, because he would be asked as much if he dresses.
A former fourth-round pick in 2017 of the Indianapolis Colts, he did not make the roster, but wound up with the Cleveland Browns before long. He spent all of 2018 on the Steelers’ 53-man roster because they seemingly didn’t want to expose him to waivers, but now they may believe he’s developed enough to see time on Sundays if necessary.