While nothing is yet etched in stone, recent comments made by Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner have made it sound as though the team has every intention of bringing him back for the 2021 season, currently slated to be a free agent, after suffering a knee injury making his first career start in the 2020 season opener. He also sounded as though he expects to compete once again for a starting job.
The four-year veteran made an appearance yesterday on the NFL Network on NFL Total Access to discuss his experiences recovering from the torn ACL that occurred at the end of the week one victory over the New York Giants back in September.
“The knee itself, it’s honestly been the biggest challenge ever in my life. I have never had to deal with an injury like this before”, he acknowledged, though he did so through a smile. While speaking, they broadcast a clip of the injury, which he noted he had never watched.
“That’s actually the first time I’ve actually seen the highlight. That’s crazy. Everything from that video and that situation with Ben and everything has been only uphill”, he said. “It’s been great. I actually just started running last week. I’m headed to California to go train with my guy Tim Caron at Allegiate out there in Redondo”.
The fact that he began running again is something that he did mention a short while back in a Twitter post, noting that it brought tears out of him when he was able to do so. Banner has persevered through a number of obstacles since entering the NFL, including internal battles and weight issues, but this was his first major physical injury.
Now about five months removed from the injury, he has clearly made solid progress, but he also understands that he is not at the finish line yet, and he recognizes and embraces the work that he must put in, not just to get back to where he needs to be physically, but also to retake his starting job and to excel in his career.
“I’m just gonna enjoy the next couple of weeks out in the sun, training and smiling”, he said about his planned trip west to work at Allegiate. “I’m happy to be healed up. Obviously I’ve got some more months ahead, and some more challenges, but I look forward to them”.
With Alejandro Villanueva a free agent and unlikely to return, there will be an open starting job at tackle. Chukwuma Okorafor started the final 16 games at right tackle after Banner’s injury, but he isn’t guaranteed to retain the job that he was given after losing a training camp battle for it. One of them could also wind up at left tackle—in fact, one of them might have to.