Player: Zach Banner
Experience: 4 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2020 Salary Cap Hit: $1,750,000
2020 Season Breakdown:
It’s been an eventful couple of years for Zach Banner, originally a fourth-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts back in 2017. After taking a roundabout trip landing with the Pittsburgh Steelers in training camp in 2018, he saw a steady rise in his career.
While he spent his first season with the club as an inactive, he stuck to the 53-man roster all year, because they liked what he showed in his brief time in training camp and the preseason. A year later, he beat out Chukwuma Okorafor to earn the swing tackle role, and saw more than 200 snaps as an extra lineman, which he not only performed well in but also turned into a fan-favorite moment when he was announced as reporting as eligible.
Despite logging more than 200 snaps in that role, when the Steelers opened up the right tackle position for one game by moving Matt Feiler to left guard to accommodate for Ramon Foster being out, they gave Okorafor the start, rather than him, with Mike Tomlin saying that they wanted to keep him available for that eligible role, even though it’s one that Okorafor had done himself in 2018.
After Feiler was moved to guard full-time this past season, Banner and Okorafor competed against one another during training camp to start at right tackle. Banner won the competition, but his time there would be short, because he suffered a torn ACL toward the end of a somewhat uneven debut as a starter.
Free Agency Outlook:
Given that he is a four-year player with one career start to his name and is coming off of a torn ACL, I would imagine that Banner is not going to have a very robust market. Last year, as a restricted free agent, the Steelers signed him to a one-year contract worth $1.75 million, which was less than the $2.133 million original-round tender value.
Despite the injury, Banner has remained very connected with the team. After the season was over, he posted on social media that he had a very encouraging exit meeting, which certainly would seem to imply that the Steelers expressed their intention to keep him in the fold, and perhaps even view him as a starter.
On the rehab front, that also appears to be going well. He recently started running again for the first time, which he said brought him to tears. He semes to be on track to be ready to play at the start of 2021. I think it’s very likely that that will be with the Steelers, and depending upon how the next couple of months go, it might even be in the starting lineup at right tackle, with Okorafor possibly moving to left tackle.