The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks the fifth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—a new record for the franchise since the merger. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-7-1 and making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from the majority of the offensive line to Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Vince Williams—not to mention Stephon Tuitt, essentially.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2021 season.
Player: T Zach Banner
Experience: 5 Years
And at long last, we get to the offensive line portion of the reserves in our exit meeting series. You might be asking why I’m starting with Zach Banner, who played the least amongst all of the Steelers’ notable reserve linemen, but given that he was projected to be a starter up until a couple of weeks before the regular season, I think it’s worth beginning with the elephant in the room.
The Steelers signed Banner, while recovering from a torn ACL suffered in his first career start at tackle, to a two-year, $7.5 million contract as an unrestricted free agent last spring. That deal includes a $5 million base salary in 2022. Given that he played a total of five snaps as a tackle-eligible, there is legitimate reason to question whether or not they will release him.
Banner suffered a setback in his ACL rehab when he got on the field in the preseason. He ended up starting the regular season on the Reserve/Injured List, and ultimately was only active for seven games. Chukwuma Okorafor, who was projected to slide over to left tackle, moved back over to the right, and rookie Dan Moore Jr. started at left tackle.
Both Moore and Okorafor missed a start this past season, however, and the coaching staff passed on the opportunity to start Banner both times, with Joe Haeg occupying that role. That is not a positive sign for his future.
The fact that Okorafor is a free agent could either help or hurt him. Either they will look at his salary and say they can use it to re-sign the guy who has started dozens of games, or they’ll just say goodbye and note that they already have a tackle whom they intended as a starter on the roster, who should now be finally healthy enough to do that job. I wouldn’t bet on the latter option, though.