Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: T Zach Banner
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: Despite being healthy enough to be on the 53-man roster, the coaching staff has not yet deemed Zach Banner to be one of their 48 best options to dress for a game.
Zach Banner was due to enter the 2021 season as the Steelers’ starting right tackle, in spite of the fact that he was still recovering from a torn ACL. In the rather little work that he did get in training camp, he worked there with the first-team offensive line, including the third preseason game, the only in-game snaps he’s gotten since his injury in the 2020 opener.
He had a setback sometime between that preseason game and this year’s opener, which landed him on the Reserve/Injured List. After spending the first five games of the regular season there, he was activated, but the Steelers have played three games—and had a bye week—since then, and he has not dressed for any of them, with Joe Haeg serving as the swing tackle.
While the argument could be make that the coaching staff feels he is still playing his way into game shape and all that in practice, it seems more likely at this point that they simply have their eight linemen set, and that Banner is the least useful to them right now of the nine linemen on the roster.
After all, these guys have been working together consistently all year. Banner is the most limited reserve, only likely to play the right tackle position. They don’t want to disrupt the chemistry the line has built with Dan Moore Jr. at left tackle and Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle.
And the simple reality is the fact that Banner is very inexperienced when it comes to actually playing. He has only one career start as a tackle, that coming in last year’s season opener, and as noted, he did not even finish that game, due to injury. Moore is a more experienced starting tackle by this point—and he’s a rookie.
It would seem that it may well take an injury at this point for the fifth-year veteran to dress. The Steelers even bypassed two opportunities in the past two weeks, while Eric Ebron was out, to dress him for the tackle-eligible role in which he served capably in 2019. That was enough to tell me that there are currently no plans to dress him while everybody is healthy. His injury and recovery lost him his opportunity for this season.
Of course, now that I’ve written this, that means that he will dress tomorrow.