Zach Banner Tweeted on the final day of February that he would be “locking it down on social media” until he signs a new contract. Outside of a retweet of his foundation’s scholarship application opening up, he made good on that, keeping his Twitter timeline clean.
Locking it down on social and media until my new contract is signed. 🤫🔒
Stay tuned… #HulkSmash
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) February 28, 2021
That is until last night. After 10 PM, the fifth-year veteran offensive lineman posted a Tweet, a gif of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson slowly forming a big smile. Reasonably, pretty much everybody has interpreted this as indicating that he has a new contract in place, which has been the expectation all along.
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) March 16, 2021
Around this time last year, Banner, a former fourth-round draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts, was entering his fourth season, and third with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was scheduled to be a restricted free agent, and he ultimately signed a one-year contract for slightly less than an original-round tender amount.
With Ramon Foster retiring, Matt Feiler moved inside from right tackle, and Banner competed with Chukwuma Okorafor to start at the now-vacant position. He won that spot and started in the season opener against the New York Giants.
Sadly, of course, as you well know, he suffered a torn ACL late in the fourth quarter of that game, marking the first and so far only start of his career along the offensive line. But the expectation is that he will be brought back and will compete once again for a spot in the starting lineup.
As it stands, both starting tackle positions figure to be open. Feiler just signed with the Los Angeles Chargers, so there’s no chance of his possibly returning and moving back to tackle. While there was a report that the Steelers would still like to bring left tackle Alejandro Villanueva back, that has always been rather unlikely.
Provided that Banner does indeed sign a new deal, which almost surely will be a one-year contract, he figures to have a very good chance of landing a starting spot, though Okorafor, having now started 18 games there over the course of his career, does have the advantage of in-game experience.
Depending upon what they are able to manage in free agency and the draft, it remains entirely possible that Banner and Okorafor are the Steelers’ two starting tackles when they open the 2021 season. This 2021 NFL Draft is said to be a deep one at the position, but they can’t count on landing a day-one starter, especially if they bypass the position in the first round.