Prior to the 2020 season, Zach Banner bet on himself with a one-year contract. The season started well with him edging out Chukwuma Okorafor for the starting right tackle job. But his year ended just one game in, tearing his ACL late in the Week One opener against the New York Giants. Though Banner’s scheduled to be a free agent, new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm praised Banner as a player and person and sure seemed to hope Banner circles back to the city. Speaking with Jeff Reinebold, Klemm talked up some of the young guys along the offensive line.”
“You know Zach Banner from back in the Day, USC and everything,” Klemm told Reinebold on Coffee With Coach. “He’s a great kid. He tore his ACL in the fourth quarter of the first game this year. He was our starting right tackle.”
Most Steelers’ fans know Banner’s story and career resurgence. Weight issues caused him to quickly flame out as a 4th round pick of the Indianapolis Colts. After a brief stint in Cleveland, Banner nearly fell out of football. But he lost enough weight for the Steelers to sign him during the 2018 training camp. He continued to shed pounds and ascend up the roster, making the 53 in 2018 and seeing action in 2019 before being named a starter in 2020.
The silver lining to Banner’s torn ACL was that it happened so early in the season. Already running, he’s on track to be ready for Week One of 2021. Given Alejandro Villanueva isn’t likely to return, the Steelers would be wise – and probably will – re-sign Banner to a one-year contract.
Klemm praised Banner’s work on the field and his positive attitude off it.
“Zach needs to have his own show. I wouldn’t be surprised he has one when he’s done. He’s a very good football player, but he’s a good person. He’s funny as hell. He’s creative. He just has a certain personality. That’s Lincoln’s [Kennedy] kid…he’s a fan favorite here. And he’s putting it on the field too. I think he keeps on improving. He’s going to have a career beyond this when he’s done. I mean, he’s a really talented kid. He’s a great person.”
Should Banner return, he could find himself in the same spot he was heading into 2020. Battling Chukwuma Okorafor for the starting right tackle job. Of course, the Steelers’ 2021 o-line is up in the air. Will Maurkice Pouncey retire? How many offensive linemen will the Steelers’ draft? Who gets re-signed? Who walks? There’s a dozen different ways this starting five could look and the dust won’t be settled until well into the summer.
Check out the entire interview below.
— Jeff Reinebold (@Jeff_Reinebold) February 5, 2021