Steelers should reunite with this underdog to solve their depth problems at OT

Pittsburgh greatly lacks OT depth after cutting Chukwuma Okorafor and this former Steeler could help.

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner (72)
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner (72) / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As I was scrolling through Twitter, I saw a rare tweet that made me genuinely smile (a rare occurrence on the app). Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle, Zach Banner, responded to someone wishing him well and also provided some insight on what his plans are moving forward.

In short, Banner would like to get back into the NFL and has been training to do so over the past few years.

Banner has one of the most impactful stories in recent years. A fourth-round pick in 2017, he failed to make the Colts roster out of training camp and bounced around the league. He looked like he had one foot out of the NFL in 2018 before he signed a deal with the Steelers late in the offseason.

Weight issues had always been brought up given his mammoth size, but those issues were put to bed in Pittsburgh. Banner went on to make the roster that year despite his late addition to the team and earned a role as the swing tackle. I can still recall the then Heinz Field going crazy every time the announcer reported Banner in as an eligible receiver in heavy sets.

He saw an increased role in 2019, and while he only played 216 snaps, he made an impact both as a run and pass blocker. He did enough to secure an extension that offseason and throw his name into the right tackle job competition. He soundly beat Chukwuma Okorafor that offseason and was poised to start during the 2020 season. From league outcast to starter in two years is an incredible path and one worthy of praise.

Unfortunately, injuries derailed his time as the starter for the team. He was lost after the first game of the 2021 season. He never got healthy after that, as he only played five snaps in 2021 before the Steelers released him. It seemed like the knee injury had done him in, but now he is hoping to resurface this season.

Steelers should take a chance on Banner

Given the Steelers current tackle room, I think looking into Banner makes a lot of sense. They aren’t going to add a major name in free agency, and while this draft is deep, the team seems to be focusing on center and receiver over a top-name tackle (much to my displeasure).

Depth at the tackle position is needed, and Banner could provide that. While he is a right tackle only, adding him gives the team some flexibility. If he picks up where he left off before his injury, Broderick Jones could slide to left tackle and form a starting duo. If not, he can always revise his beloved “72 is eligible” persona for another year.

It feels like there is some unwritten history here, and it is hard to not want to see Banner back with the team. Add in the fact that he is a generally great person and supports a wide variety of programs only further adds to his value. He is a great locker room presence and I would love to see his story continue in Pittsburgh.

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I had (wrongfully) assumed Banner had retired given his knee injury and lack of presence in the league over the past few seasons. That doesn’t appear to be the case though. Wherever he goes, I will be rooting for him. For a Steelers team in need of some tackle help though, why not give Banner the chance to finish the story that he started in 2018?