Zach Banner is certainly an interesting character. He’s as liable to make you laugh your butt off as he is to knock you on it. And that’s the essence of the 6’8” tackle, who is now in his second season with the Pittsburgh Steelers (and third overall).
Banner elevated his game this offseason, and himself to the top gameday backup tackle position, though when the Steelers called upon a backup to start a game, it was Chukwuma Okorafor getting the nod. Part of the reason for that was because simply Banner is a valued commodity in his role as a tackle-eligible tight end.
The reason he’s getting the opportunities he has, let’s not make any mistakes about this, is because he is and has been playing quite well when he’s been on the field. He is closing in on playing 200 snaps on the season, so he gets used a good amount. He is legitimately their number 2B tight end, with Nick Vannett being 2A.
With his success and opportunities he has found in Pittsburgh was also the rediscovery of a love for the game, and a calming and positive effect in his life. He’s happy, and it shows every day through his personality. He’s clearly a joker, and for many, they may know him better for his humor. He likes to joke, but he also wants people to understand he’s a worker who takes pride in his job.
“I feel like I have a really good balance right now”, he told Brooke Pryor of ESPN, adding, “I really don’t want people thinking I’m a dipshit”. He has become a meme a time or two this year, and the crowd cheers whenever he is announced as eligible.
“I really don’t want people thinking like, ‘oh, he’s just here for the followers’. Because I’m not”, he said. “I’m really here to be starting tackle in this National Football League. The sixth man and the big tight end is great, and the eligible tight end, that’s Pittsburgh. That’s the fans. I just let them do it. … They started that. Which, I hope it’s a testament to what I’ve been doing”.
It is, make no mistake. Banner has been a valuable asset for this offense, especially in light of the fact that they essentially don’t have a third tight end otherwise, with rookie Zach Gentry a weekly inactive as he redshirts the season. While he may or may not ever catch a pass (you never know), his work as a blocker has been important, especially in recent weeks, in the offense’s success.