Zach Banner is entering his fourth season with the Pittsburgh Steelers since originally being brought in as a street free agent during training camp in 2018. By then, he had gone from being cut before opening day as a rookie fourth-round pick to bouncing around and being cut or otherwise let go by three different organizations.
He has since been very open about how dispiriting the whole journey had been through his first year and a half or so in the NFL beginning with his selection by the Indianapolis Colts, and following his brief stints with the Cleveland Browns and the Carolina Panthers.
A lot has changed since then, even though he still has a lot to prove, something he knows all too keenly. But he also knows he’s a different person from the one who first signed with the team those few years ago, and he credits, among others, former teammate Ramon Foster for helping him regain his confidence.
“He’s the one that taught me to believe in myself”, Banner said of Foster on an appearance on The Drive on Steelers Nation Radio last week. “He was able to do that for so many years, and believe in what I want to believe in, and believe in building Zach Banner, and how does that help the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that’s what his character was for so long”.
Foster was a former undrafted free agent back in 2009 who not only successfully made the 53-man roster out of the chute, but proceeded to advance his career year by year before finally locking down a full-time starting role in 2013, having already started dozens of games up to that point.
Guys like that serve as an example to others who may not have had the easiest road, even if they were drafted. It’s always tough once you get cut. If nothing else, the fact that a team would choose to move on from you already makes others question why.
Foster was, of course, a much bigger presence for the Steelers than just a starting guard. He was part of the core nucleus of the roster, and not to mention their NFLPA player rep. He was a respected and vocal leader, something Banner seems to want build himself into.
“When he left, that kind of took the other half of the spirit of the room”, he said of how his and Foster’s personalities helped color the locker room with their openness and humor. “I brought in one half and he brought in the other. We were just two vocal big guys who like to have fun and build relationships”.
Banner has made a lot of people laugh over the course of the past couple of seasons, but soon enough, it will be time to get down to business. He has won a starting job once, but injury prevented him from being able to capitalize on it. He’s starting over from scratch this Summer, back to competing for a starting gig.