Unfortunately for Zach Banner, almost all of the last two seasons have been spent on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ injured reserve list. After beating out Chukwuma Okorafor for the starting RT job last season, he tore his ACL in the 2020 opener against the New York Giants, ending his season almost as quickly as it began.
Signed to a two-year deal this offseason, he again was slated to start last Sunday’s game against Buffalo. However, rehab from his injury was slower than the team hoped and Banner was again placed on IR before Week 1. That’s where he’ll spend the next two games. But he says he hopes and expects to be ready once he’s eligible to come off injured reserve and play Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers.
“That’ll be the first week I’m available,” Banner told 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller. “So that’s what I’m striving towards You picked it up.”
While it’s unclear exactly what issues Banner’s dealing with, Mike Tomlin noted last week that his recovery had simply slowed down after a fast start.
“He sustained a significant injury and different guys come back at different rates…through the team development process, Devin [Bush] has taken off and he [Banner] is not so much so. We’ll continue to work him.”
As our Melanie Friedlander pointed out, Banner’s size can make it tougher to return from a serious knee injury than a guy like Bush, who has less stress on his knees and joints than Banner.
Banner was asked by the show how he feels and how he plans to be ready as soon as he’s eligible to return.
“Better everyday, bro. I mean the coaches and the trainers and the strength staff and everything, they’re just making the whole place available. I live at that building, you know what I mean? Until I’m back, that’s where I live. So that’s why there’s really not too much to say on social media right now.”
Though drafted in 2017, we simply don’t know much about Banner the offensive tackle. He served as the team’s sixth offensive lineman/tackle eligible in 2019 and did well in that role, but has seen fewer than 75 career snaps as a true offensive tackle in regular season action. Weight issues caused him to nearly fall out of the league and while that isn’t an issue anymore, persistent knee problems are becoming one.
Assuming he can return, Banner’s presence would boost a Steelers’ run game which didn’t make many strides Sunday against a tough Bills’ front seven. Okorafor’s lack of power and run blocking will remain an issue as long as he’s on that side.
Right now for Banner, it’s about getting healthy and able to contribute to this team over the long-term. According to him, that’ll begin Week 4 against Green Bay.