The Pittsburgh Steelers re-signed tackle Zach Banner to a two-year contract this past week and now the USC product can resume focusing on getting his surgically repaired knee fully healthy for the 2021 season. Banner, who tore the ACL in his right knee in the Steelers Week 1 game of the 2020 season against the New York Giants, updated the status of his rehab during an interview a few days ago on The Drive on Steelers Nation Radio.
“Looking back, I’ve been running, I’ll start cutting soon,” Banner said. “I’ll start doing things soon. I’ve been already doing football-specific movements, strengthening of the knee, strengthening the muscles around the knee. Everything has been going really, really well. I just got double-checked during free agency by a second opinion out on the West Coast, a very, very high-profile doctor, who felt my knee and moved it in certain different ways and looked at it and said, ‘Zach, this doesn’t feel like a six-month knee, this feels like a nine-month knee. Just keep doing what you’re doing.’
That positive update that Banner recently received aside, he knows that he probably doesn’t need to get too far ahead of himself right now and thus definitely not push himself his rehab too hard with it still being early in the offseason.
“But at the same time, we have to be smart about the joint and we have to be smart about the medical side about it and let that new joint and everything mature,” Banner said. “But we’re looking at being fully back in nine weeks to sum that up today.”
Nine weeks would put Banner at the end of May and right around when the annual OTA practices begin wrapping up. By the sound of things, Banner will be able to participate in at least some of those OTA practices to some degree, assuming they even take place. The annual mandatory minicamp normally takes place in June, and assuming it does again this summer, hopefully Banner will be a full go to participate in that. At the very worst, Banner feels he’ll be ready to return to full action for the start of the Steelers 2021 training camp, which should happen around the middle of July.
“So, that’s the plan and just staying optimistic from there,” Banner said. “But let’s say we get there from nine weeks from now, right? That’s minicamp time, that’s usually around there. If things just, I don’t want to say look south or if things slow down or If we need a couple more weeks, the biggest thing is being ready to produce during camp and during the season, you know what I mean? But it feels really good.”
That certainly is an encouraging update from Banner, who is undoubtedly being counted on to be one of the Steelers two staring tackles in 2021. Will he be the starting right tackle or starting left tackle in 2021? We’ll have to wait and see but, in the meantime, however, his right knee is the biggest topic of discussion as we get closer to the month of April.
“And it’s really about the team, Banner said. “It’s not about me and I need to be ready to produce for my team. So, how that works is staying on track with everything I’m doing. Being optimistic about, you know, being a couple months out, but at the same time, the best thing I can do is protect myself and keep doing what I’m doing for the team.”