Zach Banner has been a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers for four years now. He hasn’t dress for a game that he hasn’t started since 2019. The problem is that he has only dressed for one game since then due to the torn ACL that he suffered in the opener in 2020.
There’s nothing he could have done about that, of course. Your body heals at a certain rate, and you can only do so much to maximize the rate of recovery. But he appears to be on the verge of finally returning since his injury in September 2020, and nobody is more ready for him to play than he is.
But his teammates also understand that he brings a certain energy that is important when he is on the field, something they have been missing. He is what head coach Mike Tomlin would call an energy-bringer, something that guys like Maurkice Pouncey and Willie Colon have been in the past.
“He’s a guy that’s been here for a while. He’s a guy that has a lot of heart and a lot of fire, passion”, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of Banner yesterday. “Sometimes that’s required when things aren’t going well. We’ve always had that guy that’s got that fire and that passion”.
I don’t think it would be inaccurate or unfair to say that they haven’t really had a lot of that so far this season with who they’ve had out there on the field—and not just because of performance levels. With two rookies, a second-year guy, a free agent addition, and a soft-spoken right tackle, this isn’t the most spirited group they’ve ever had.
Still, whether or not he is actually out there on the field remains to be seen. The offensive line did seem to show some signs of life last week with their current starting five, so that might make them reluctant to jumble things up. Plus, they have a bye week coming after this weekend.
“I’m not really sure what’s gonna happen in terms of who’s gonna be out there, but having the ability to have a guy out there like that, it’s better to have someone be ready to go than not”, Roethlisberger said after Wednesday’s practice.
I imagine they’ll have a clearer picture by Friday, or at least you’d hope so. Chukwuma Okorafor said that he had gotten some reps at left tackle last week, where he worked during the offseason before Banner’s setback flipped him back to the right side.
Okorafor is the variable. If Banner plays, he will be at right tackle. If Dan Moore Jr. plays, he will be at left tackle. Okorafor could flip back and forth, or serve as the swing tackle. But at the end of the day, the Steelers have some options.