The Pittsburgh Steelers have an interesting decision to make over the course of their bye week. Who is going to play at tackle? While their offensive line has not been great, it has arguably begun to stabilize over the past two weeks with rookie Dan Moore Jr. at left tackle and Chukwuma Okorafor at the right tackle spot.
But Zach Banner, originally projected to be at right tackle, is evidently back healthy and ready to play. So what do they do? According to offensive coordinator Matt Canada, it’s a simple solution, at least in theory. “We’re gonna play the best tackles at the time”, he told reporters yesterday, via transcript.
Initially, the lineup was going to consist of Okorafor moving over to left tackle with Banner at right tackle. Banner had a setback in his recovery from his torn ACL, so they accommodated the rookie Moore’s greater comfort level playing on the left side by plugging him in there and moving Okorafor back over to the right.
Now what happens? Do you swap Okorafor out for Banner? Do you plug in Banner and move Okorafor over to the left side, sitting the rookie? And what about Joe Haeg, whom coaches have seemed to voluntarily mention at every opportunity? He’s had to log snaps, including a start, in three of the past four games.
“Chuks has come in and done a good job. Dan’s done a good job. I think Joe’s done a really good job in what we’ve asked him to do”, Canada said of the three tackles they’ve already had on the field so far this season. “We’ve got four guys that are playing tackle. [Offensive line coaches Adrian] Klemm and C-Mo [Chris Morgan] and Coach [Mike Tomlin] will talk about it and we’ll play the best guys at the time”.
Having no access to practice, of course, chances are we won’t have much idea of what the lineup is going to look like until the offense takes the field on Halloween. I’m sure Tomlin is going to want to keep this as ‘mystical’ as possible up until that point, and will probably instruct his players and coaches not to discuss which tackles are playing where and with what groups next week.
It’s been a long wait for Banner, and for the fans who have been wanting to see what he can do. After winning the starting right tackle job last year in training camp, he tore his ACL in the season opener while making the very first start of his career.
He has not played in a regular-season game since. He logged about a dozen snaps in the third preseason game back in August, but that or something immediately subsequent triggered a setback, and he ended up landing on the Reserve/Injured List.
He was activated over the weekend but did not dress for Sunday’s game. Tomlin told reporters yesterday that the decision over Banner was “something we wanted to look at on the other side of the bye” when asked why he did not dress. So the wait for answers continues, but also grows shorter.