Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: T Zach Banner
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: One of three players placed on the Reserve/Injured List at the start of the regular season, offensive tackle Zach Banner was designated for return, meaning that he will begin practicing and should be expected to be activated to the 53-man roster within the next 21 days.
Zach Banner has spent a bit over a year now working his way back from a torn ACL that he suffered in, so far the only start of his career along the offensive line. He won the right tackle job during training camp last year, but would exit the regular-season opener with the knee injury that would not only end his year, but had him start the following year on the Reserve/Injured List as well.
Banner played 12 snaps at right tackle during the preseason, but has not practiced since that third preseason game prior to this week. But the Steelers would not have started his 21-day activation clock if they weren’t confident that he would be back within that time.
The question is how soon he will be back. He can return as early as this Sunday, but will that be enough time? It’s not as though he has been wholly out of football since last September. He has done work since then. He evidently had a setback after his preseason action, however.
The Steelers could certainly use a boost along the offensive line, as none of the starters are playing well. Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle has been up and down, as usual. It’s not clear how Banner would affect things, though.
First of all, would he start? He was supposed to start at the beginning of the year, but his being shelved plugged rookie Dan Moore Jr. into the starting lineup—at left tackle, where Okorafor was supposed to start, moving him then to right tackle, where he has made all 21 of his career starts to date.
Okorafor is currently in the concussion protocol, so it would certainly be helpful if he were able to go this week. If they should both miss the game, then Joe Haeg would start at right tackle, with Rashaad Coward as the swing tackle.