Zach Banner wasn’t born and raised a California boy, but he somewhat became one playing for the USC Trojans during his college career. Now going into his fifth NFL season, and his third with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he finds himself becoming a Yinzer. Now, born and bred Pennsylvanian Matt Feiler has packed up his things and headed out west.
The former Steelers starting guard and tackle earned himself a three-year, $21 million contract this offseason to sign with the Los Angeles Chargers, bringing mixed emotions for his friend and former teammate in Banner, who spoke to Brian Batko this offseason for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“I was so happy for him,” he said of the former three-year practice squad player for his ability to earn a significant long-term contract. “I was so pissed that we weren’t able to snag him, but that’s the business, and that’s those opportunities that come once.”
Originally undrafted out of Bloomsburg of all places, Feiler originally signed with the Houston Texans in 2014, where he played guard and tackle, but remained on the practice squad only. The next two years, he was with the Steelers, but could not crack the 53-man roster until 2017.
Feiler played little that first year on the roster, but would emerge as a starter in 2018, Banner’s first year in Pittsburgh, replacing the injured Marcus Gilbert at right tackle. He would start 25 games there over the course of the next two seasons.
When Ramon Foster retired in 2020, Feiler’s versatility opened the door for Banner to climb into the starting lineup, with the former sliding over from right tackle to left guard, and the latter defeating Chukwuma Okorafor in a training camp battle for the vacant right tackle job.
Banner suffered a torn ACL in the season opener, and has much left to prove. But with the Steelers bringing him back on a two-year, $9.5 million deal, he will get that chance. But he’ll also miss not having Feiler around, with whom he trained last offseason during the pandemic.
“When he had Emery, his daughter, we were training that offseason. COVID just happened,” he told Batko. “The whole pandemic, we were training together at Schenley [Park] and going all over the city, or we were up in Wexford by his house, going to his house every day and lifting weights in his garage.”
While Banner wishes him well in the next chapter in his life and the life of his family, he couldn’t help but prod him, noting that the Pennsylvania boy will stick out like a sore thumb on the west coast. Then again, it seems there is a growing number of Steelers fans growing weary of Banner’s California boy routine, at least based on the article comments every time I write about him. As always, the best way to get people to shut up is to prove yourself on the field.