While it was good news that Pittsburgh Steelers fifth-year tackle Zach Banner was able to begin training camp without being placed on the Active/PUP List, he has not, as of yet, participated much on the field, particularly in team drills. The nominal starter at right tackle suffered a torn ACL last September while making his first career start.
Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Banner’s status following practice today and whether or not his lack of work was due to a setback of some kind. “No, no setbacks”, he said, via transcript. “We’re excited about where he is and we’ll just keep moving forward with this process”.
He added that some of the players whom reporters may be seeing more on the sidelines than they might expect will see their participation pick up as things move closer to getting inside of stadiums. The Steelers will play the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game a week from Thursday, on August 5.
In spite of the fact that he has made just one career start, Banner is actually the only intended starting lineman returning from last season; the only player who started the season opener a year ago along the offensive line who is back starting, and in the same spot.
Following his injury, Chukwuma Okorafor manned the right tackle spot for the remainder of the year, starting 16 games, including the postseason. As of now, he is slated to take over at left tackle following the free agency departure of Alejandro Villanueva.
Banner was originally drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. While he made their initial 53-man roster, he was quickly waived in order to make room for players they had claimed off waivers. He was then claimed himself by the Cleveland Browns, with whom he would spend his rookie season.
The Browns would let him go the following offseason, and he would spend some time with the Carolina Panthers that spring before the Steelers picked him up during training camp in 2018. He showed enough to make the 53-man roster, but would not play that year.
In 2019, he edged out Okorafor for the right to dress as the gameday swing tackle and the extra tight end, though when the time came for somebody to start a game, Okorafor was on the field. Last summer, he edged out Okorafor for the right to start at right tackle.
Following extensive rehab, and after signing a new two-year contract as a free agent, he is back and ready to earn his job all over again. The Steelers want to be cautious with his road back, however—perhaps especially due to the lack of attractive alternatives behind him.