Now that the 2019 season is over, with a team other than ours having been crowned champion and there being much work to do to return to that status, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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: OT Zach Banner
Stock Value: Up
It’s fair to say this was a good season for Zach Banner, the third-year tackle, in his second season with the Steelers. After initially making the team in 2018 as a training camp signing, and spending the year almost entirely as a healthy scratch, he dressed for and played in 14 games last season.
He technically even ‘started’ one, in the sense of being on the field for the first snap, but that’s another discussion to have, a bit later. For now, the fact is that he played well enough in the offseason and in the preseason to make the team feel comfortable in his ability to dress as the swing tackle on Sundays.
The question that remains, however, is if they believe he is their third-best option at tackle, behind Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler, the starters. That is because, when Feiler started one game inside, they dressed and started Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle.
When asked about that after the game, head coach Mike Tomlin partially deflected, saying that he didn’t want to take Banner out of his rhythm as the team’s tackle-eligible. That is a role that he had been playing all season, and growing in, but I’m sure any player in that role would jump at the chance to actually start a game, something he has not yet done in his career.
His play at tackle-eligible tight end was important for the team in 2019, however, due to the issues and injuries that they had at the tight end position. In fact, for most of the year, they only even dressed two actual tight ends on Sundays, knowing that he would be the ‘third’, though sometimes technically even the second.
As stated, though, nobody comes into the league wanting to be a jumbo tight end. He’ll want and expect to be able the swing tackle, at least, in 2020, the guy who starts a game if there is an injury, and that is what he will be shooting for. There’s even a possibility he could be the starter, if Ramon Foster and B.J. Finney both depart and Feiler moves to guard.