It seems clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers were not going to give Zach Banner a restricted free agent tender. If they were going to, they would have, considering they ended up signing him to a one-year contract worth $1.75 million. Had they not given him this deal, however, he would have had the opportunity to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
He still chose to re-sign with the Steelers, and in speaking with Missi Matthews yesterday after cementing the deal, it sounds as though he believes that he had options with other teams, or possibly even with the Steelers as well, to sign a multi-year contract. There is a reason he did not, and that he re-signed with Pittsburgh.
“The last two years have been amazing. I think that was pretty much the deciding factor in deciding where I’m gonna be. It just felt right”, he said of his time with the Steelers over the course of the past two seasons, originally signing with the team in training camp in 2018.
“I’m betting on myself. That’s the reason why we didn’t do a couple-year thing”, he added. “Me and my agent, my agent believes in me, Joe Panos, and I believe in myself. We want to get on the field this year, and want to play and get that kind of tape, so that way I could change the course of my family, and brighten up their future a little bit”.
With the retirement of Ramon Foster and B.J. Finney signing with the Seattle Seahawks in free agency, there is a spot open in the starting lineup, and who ends up filling that spot—as well as where that spot will be—will be determined over the course of the offseason.
For the moment, the betting favorite is that Matt Feiler will move to left guard, which will create a vacancy at right tackle. Last offseason, Feiler, Banner, and Chukwuma Okorafor competed in training camp for the job, with Feiler, who started 10 games there the year before, winning.
Presumably, Banner feels good about his chances of working his way into the starting lineup this season, and using that tape to earn himself a healthy contract when he is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in 2021.
Originally a fourth-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts, he did not make their 53-man roster, but later spent time in 2017 with the Cleveland Browns. He took a roundabout journey getting to Pittsburgh the following summer, where he would make the 53-man roster, but was a healthy scratch all season.
Last summer, he emerged as the gameday swing tackle, though he never had to play, because Alejandro Villanueva and Feiler remained healthy all season. Okorafor, who had been inactive for 15 games, started at right tackle for one game when Feiler moved to left guard due to injury, while Banner remained in his tackle-eligible role, logging 200-some-odd snaps there during the year.