The report has been confirmed. According to Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on Wednesday, Zach Banner will be the team’s starting right tackle Monday night in the team’s regular season road opener against the New York Giants. Tomlin made that announcement after Wednesday’s practice had concluded.
Banner and third-year tackle Chukwuma Okorafor battled for the right to be the team’s starting right tackle throughout training camp this year and speculation was heavy from the start that it was the latter’s job to lose due to him already making two starts at that position the last two seasons.
While Banner played frequently last season with the Steelers, he was mainly used as an extra eligible offensive lineman, and not as a tackle. He played 216 offensive snaps in 2019. Monday night will be Banner’s first career start in the NFL as an offensive lineman.
Banner was originally selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth-round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of USC. He was waived by the Colts ahead of Week 1 of his rookie season and then landed with the Cleveland Browns. He played just 27 offensive snaps with the Browns. The Browns waived Banner in March of 2018 and the Carolina Panthers claimed him. His stay with the Panthers wasn’t long as Carolina waived him in May of 2018.
Banner was ultimately signed by the Steelers midway through the team’s 2018 training camp and while he made the 53-man roster that season, he was inactive most of that year. Banner, who signed a one-year contract with the Steelers earlier in the offseason, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021.
Okorafor will now start the 2020 season as the team’s backup swing tackle. He started one game last season against the Los Angeles Rams and one during his 2018 rookie season against the Denver Broncos. He’s a former third-round draft pick out of Western Michigan.