If there is change coming to the offensive line any time soon, the likeliest spot would be at right tackle, where the Pittsburgh Steelers have not had the man whom they intended to be the starter there yet at any point during the regular season.
Zach Banner first won the job in training camp last year, but he tore his ACL in the opener. He has been continuing to rehab from that injury since, with a brief, 12-snap cameo appearance in the third preseason game in August, which apparently led to a setback.
Placed on the Reserve/Injured List after the cutdowns, he resumed practice last week, the earliest possible time, but was not activated to the 53-man roster. He is continuing to work his way back this week, but it is unclear if his chances of being activated are much better. Still, center Kendrick Green likes what he has seen.
“Zach’s been working his butt off in the rehab, conditioning”, he told reporters after practice earlier today. “He’s been out here doing football movements, trying to get right. I think today he looked pretty well. He did well in his one-on-one reps. I think Zach’s coming along pretty well”.
The Steelers have had Chukwuma Okorafor in the starting lineup at right tackle for most of the season. Okorafor was the man who lost to Banner for the right tackle job last year, but ended up starting 16 games after the latter’s knee injury. He was slated to start at left tackle this season, but Banner’s knee situation forced the adjustment.
But Okorafor missed this past Sunday’s game due to a concussion that he suffered in the second half of the previous game, and he remains in the concussion protocol. Joe Haeg, signed as a free agent in March, started in his place, and generally held his own.
As we sit here today, it seems to be wide open as to who will start at right tackle this week. If neither Okorafor nor Banner are ready to go by Sunday, then it will obviously be Haeg. If Okorafor clears the concussion protocol, then he will be an option; likewise, if Banner is activated to the 53-man roster, he will be yet another option.
With neither of them available this past Sunday, the Steelers elevated veteran tackle Chaz Green from the practice squad to dress as the swing tackle. He only has one elevation remaining for him during the 2021 season before he would have to be signed outright to the 53-man roster in order to dress and play.