2021 South Side Questions: What Role Will Zach Banner Have This Week?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: What will Zach Banner’s role be this week, if he has one?

The Steelers have until next week to activate Zach Banner from the Reserve/Injured List, 21 days from the time that they started his clock. That means he doesn’t have to be on the 53-man roster this week. But it doesn’t mean he won’t be, either.

The thing is, Pittsburgh has gotten decent games out of the right tackle position in the past two weeks from Joe Haeg and Chukwuma Okorafor, and, well, Banner hasn’t played football in over a year, at least in a meaningful game.

But how are they all looking in practice? Will Banner get the opportunity to start if he happens to look better than Okorafor and Haeg during a work week, or will whoever is starting have to slip up in an actual game for him to get the opportunity?

Might they rotate? It is something that has been done before, including in Pittsburgh. It’s not like they have clearly defined starting roles right now, and Banner was supposed to start there anyway. It wouldn’t shock me if he gets a series or two here and there whenever he does come back.

But the Steelers have only one more game before they go on a bye week. Would the coaches want to hold him out another week and give him as much time as possible to get more reps under his belt on that knee before they put him in a game, or even ask him to dress as a backup?

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