The Steelers have named Zach Banner the starting right tackle to start the season, beating out former third-round pick Chukwuma Okorafor for the starting role, as was reported by Adam Crowley of ESPN Pittsburgh and confirmed Steelers Now.
Banner, 26 is entering his third season with the Steelers after joining the team late in training camp in 2018. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of the University of Southern California by the Indianapolis Colts and also spent time with the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers before catching on with the Steelers.
Head coach Mike Tomlin listed Banner and Okorafor as co-starters on his first depth chart of the 2020 season on Monday and said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday that he feels comfortable with either player.
“I’m comfortable with the right tackle prospects,” Tomlin said. “It’s been a tough decision because I feel like we have two guys who are starter-capable.”
Banner made a name for himself with Steelers fans throughout last season as the team’s extra tight end, with fans celebrating his No. 72 uniform being declared as an eligible receiver. He was entered into a competition with Okorafor throughout training camp for the starting right tackle role after the Steelers moved 2019 starting right tackle Matt Feiler to left guard to offset the loss of Ramon Foster, who retired.
Tomlin said late in training camp that one player winning the competition to start in Week 1 against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football does not necessarily mean that he’ll have that job guaranteed going forward.
“Those are good problems to have,” Tomlin said. “I don’t know if I necessarily view it as a negative thing with whoever gets named starter could have a short leash.”
The battle between Banner and Okorafor was the longest and most important of the Steelers’ training camp decisions. The only other co-starter designation handed out by Tomlin on Monday was at kickoff returner, where recently signed wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud and rookie running back Anthony McFarland, Jr. are slated to share time.