2021 South Side Questions: Will Zach Banner Dress For Sunday?

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: Will Zach Banner dress for Sunday’s game?

We don’t know for sure whether or not Zach Banner will be activated from the Reserve/Injured List right now, though he seems to believe he can play right now. He presumably thought that when he did play in the preseason, too, before he had a physical setback which he said on Thursday that he’s not allowed to discuss.

But the fifth-year veteran has two weeks of practice under his belt, now, and says that he feels good about how he’s feeling and how he’s practicing. So where do we go from here? Does he get the activation now? Does he dress for Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos? Does he start?

Chukwuma Okorafor has started 19 of the past 20 games at right tackle for the Steelers since Banner originally injured his knee in the 2020 opener. The only game he missed was…this past Sunday, when he was out with a concussion. But he’s been fully practicing this week and is presumably about to get clearance from the concussion protocol.

Joe Haeg started in Okorafor’s place and held his own there, perhaps better than Okorafor has in the first place. So if you have all three of them available, what do you do? Banner was supposed to be the starter, but he hasn’t played in over a year. Do you just plug him in?

The Steelers did pay him like a (low-level) starter this offseason when they brought him back despite his injury, because they believe he’s capable of being a full-time guy. He’s now on the doorstep of finally having the chance to prove it.

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