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.
Steelers, Pitt Start 3-0 for First Time Since 1982
PITTSBURGH — This year has been a trying year for many around the world and the region, but so far, 2020 has been pretty good to Pittsburgh’s football teams.
The Pittsburgh Steelers improved to 3-0 on the season on Sunday with a 28-21 victory over the Houston Texans at Heinz Field.
One day earlier on the same playing surface, the Pitt Panthers had earned their third straight win to start the season with a 23-20 win over the Louisville Cardinals.
It’s been a long time since Pittsburgh’s football fans had such a successful start to the season. The last time both Pitt and the Steelers won each of their first three games was all the way back in 1982.
Pitt’s squad, led by quarterback Dan Marino, ended up winning seven in a row that year before losing to Notre Dame and Penn State in November and SMU in the Cotton Bowl, finishing 9- and ranked No. 10 in the country.
The Steelers’ 3-0 start that season was a strange one, as the beat the Dallas Cowboys to open to the season and prevailed over the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime before the NFL players went on strike, stopping the season until late November. When play resumed, the Steelers defeated the Houston Oilers to improve to 3-0.
But Terry Bradshaw’s injured elbow limited him throughout the season and the Steelers dropped three of their next four, finishing 6-3 and with a first-round playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers.
Both teams will put their unbeaten records on the line next weekend, with No. 24 Pitt hosting NC State at Heinz Field and the Steelers visiting the equally undefeated Tennessee Titans. If they can keep their hot starts going, they’ll be equalling the 1979 season, when both teams started 4-0.
Steelers Postgame Show: Steelers Comeback, Run Over Texans
Despite trailing early, the Steelers were able to comeback and move to 3-0 on the season with a win over the Houston Texans.
Host Mike Asti held a postgame show chat session with fans to cover a variety of topics: the win, a rockier day for Ben Roethlisberger at times, the emergence of Eric Ebron, Anthony McFarland and more Steelers weapons, Mike Tomlin now incorporating a running back by committee situation and even the struggles of the defense, especially the secondary.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/25/20
It was all about wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s return and the Watt brothers at the final practice before the Steelers week 3 game against Houston.
Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers