While further tests are still necessary to make an official confirmation, it is believed that Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Zach Banner suffered a torn ACL late in last night’s game against the New York Giants. A 2017 fourth-round pick, he made his first-career start in yesterday’s win, but it looks like it may be a year before he even has another shot at it from a health standpoint.
It didn’t take long for Banner to get noticed after the Steelers first signed him off the street on August 12 in 2018 in the middle of training camp that year. At 6’8” and at that time probably weighing in the ballpark of 350 or so pounds, he was hard to miss on the practice field. He was hard to get around, and the Steelers didn’t want to risk losing him off waivers—he had already been claimed off waivers twice before, after all.
So he spent all of the 2018 season as the ninth lineman and a healthy scratch, but competed a year later and earned the swing tackle job, though the one time it was required, he was looked over in favor of Chukwuma Okorafor in large part because he had so established himself in the valuable role of the tackle eligible.
This year, with Matt Feiler moving to left guard, Banner won the right tackle job entering his fourth season, just on the eve of becoming an unrestricted free agent. This was the moment that he had worked so hard for, and it was rightfully a big story.
But let’s not mistake anything, here. The story is far from over, and as tough as last night was to go through, Banner knows this as well as anybody. As does his coach, Mike Tomlin, who spoke to reporters earlier today about the young man’s competitive nature and drive.
“It can be a cold game, but it is a lot like life. We are not defined by what happens to us, we are defined by how we respond to it”, he told reporters this afternoon. “Whenever unfortunate events like that occur, we talk openly about that. it’s not that he got injured after all that he has been through and the fight he has been through to get where he is, it is about what he does moving forward and responds to it. He is a competitor, he is a professional, and I expect him to smile in the face of adversity”.
Banner is easily one of the funniest and most jovial voices you’ll find in the locker room. He is somebody who loves to have fun, to be sure. But he is also deadly serious about the important things, and that includes his career.
The amount that he worked to get to this point, after where he had been, not just physically, but also emotionally, took a great deal of willpower and commitment. I have no doubt that he will use that same drive to return from this injury and resume his quest for his ultimate goal—to be a starter on a Super Bowl champion team. And hopefully he’ll have that opportunity again in Pittsburgh in 2021.