Now that the 2020 training camp has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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: T Zach Banner
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: On Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin verified a previous report that Zach Banner had been named the Steelers’ starting right tackle heading into the 2020 season.
The Steelers had one starting job up for grabs this Summer. The right tackle spot became available after the team moved Matt Feiler to left guard. Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor were the competitors. The former won, and he enters his fourth season, on the eve of free agency, as a starter.
It’s been a long road for the big man, and nothing is promised beyond the beginning, but he now has what he has long wanted: the chance to start, and to prove that he belongs there. He is just the latest in a growing line of overlooked linemen that the Steelers have turned into starters over the past five or six seasons.
Even though he was a mid-round draft pick, he was cut before the opening day of his rookie year. Claimed off waivers, he played something like 27 snaps, and then released in March the next year. claimed again, released again at the end of May.
After that, he went unclaimed. He was without a job until the Steelers phoned him up in the middle of training camp when they needed to fortify their tackle position for the preseason. He came in and looked like he belonged—enough that they didn’t want to risk losing him—so they carried him all year as the ninth lineman.
Then he earned the swing tackle job last season, playing as the tackle-eligible and elevating his status. That gave him the platform to rise up to where he is now, preparing to line up as a starting offensive lineman for the first time in his NFL career.
It was a long wait, but I’m sure it feels sweet. It’s just too bad that we didn’t have the opportunity to experience the process as it unfolded this offseason, with no fan access at training camp and no preseason games being played. But it won’t be long before we’re watching him line up against the New York Giants now.