The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t simply lose four players from last season’s offensive line who were full-time starters. They also lost every single offensive lineman who had a meaningful starting history with them. While Chukwuma Okorafor has 18 starts, they all came as an injury replacement. Trai Turner is a five-time Pro Bowler, but is new to the team, and hasn’t been the same in a while.
While the team believes there is talent in that room with the likes of Zach Banner, Kendrick Green, and yes, even the infamous Kevin Dotson (that’s a joke, before anyone freaks out), one can say that there is a credibility gap as it pertains to the absence of the ‘been there’ guys.
Banner is the only player on this roster who has started a single game for the Steelers as an intended starter, and he didn’t even finish that game—of course, due to a torn ACL. But regardless of the circumstances, he understands the position the room is in, as well as his role within it, as he’s heard it from Mike Tomlin.
“When Coach T talked to me about this quote-unquote ‘veteran’ role and things like that, everybody understands that I have the character, and I’m a good person, and I try to make sure I support all my teammates and hold them accountable”, he told Max Starks last week on SiriusXM Radio.
“But it’s more now holding yourself accountable and doing it visually, and letting them see you work and letting them see you sweat”, he added. “And that’s something that I’ve been doing this year, especially through the rehab process”.
Banner continues to rehab his knee as he prepares for what he hopes to be his first of many seasons as a full-time starting offensive lineman, but it’s notable that he talked about making sure that he goes through it publicly, so to speak, to show his teammates and his coaches that he’s attacking the process, to serve as an example.
A former fourth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, it’s been a long road for Banner to get to where he is now with the opportunity in front of him. He won the starting right tackle job last season, but now he has to win it again, a job he lost only due to injury.
Okorafor is sliding over to the left side after Alejandro Villanueva departed, but both of them will ostensibly be challenged by Dan Moore Jr., the rookie fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M. Veteran Joe Haeg could also play a factor, especially if either of them slip.
But the bottom line is that this room needs more than ‘potential’ to do the job. There are guys in there who have talent, but they have to go out there and accomplish something. They need to be ‘been’ there’ guys, leaders who can show the rest of the group the way. Banner has been around long enough, and has the personality. He has to put the work on the field as the final ingredient.