2021 Offseason Questions: What Is Going On With Zach Banner?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: What is going on with Zach Banner?

With under two weeks to go before the regular season begins, I’m not sure we can be confident at this point what the offensive line is going to look like. While head coach Mike Tomlin did warn last week that he was going to go down to the 11th hour to finalize the lineup, I don’t think he was talking about health being a deciding factor.

Zach Banner did not practice yesterday. He did not play in the preseason finale, though that is not a shocker, nor did he travel with the team. He only played 12 snaps during the third preseason game, exiting before the rest of the starters did.

The projected starting right tackle, of course, tore his ACL nearly a year ago. Given how much he has been held back, especially in relation to Devin Bush, who was injured later in the season, many are wondering if there is more behind the scenes in terms of his health.

Is he simply not as far along as they hoped, or thought? Did he have a setback when he played briefly? Is he actually healthy, so far as they can tell, but are just choosing to do everything they can to make sure they get him into the regular season healthy?

I wrote yesterday that Banner was one of the biggest questions the Steelers have entering this season, but that was about his play on the field, given he little we’ve seen of him. His absence from participation in practice yesterday raises even more questions.

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