The Steelers are finally getting Zach Banner back on the field. While he did not suit up Sunday night against the Seahawks, the Steelers now have the most depth they have had at the tackle position for the entire season.
Still, Banner was the presumptive starter prior to going on injured reserve before Week 1 of the regular season. With that, it means the Steelers now have a decision to make.
Dan Moore Jr’s best teacher may be experiencing the fire of the NFL. Joe Haeg has provided some real spark in the running game during his relief appearances. Chukwuma Okorafor struggled to begin the season but now has hit the ground running with two strong games heading into the bye week. For Mike Tomlin, the problem is a good one to have, and he will embrace it to decide the division of labor.
“Love it. Love it. Good problems to have,” Tomlin said of the situation. “And that’s what I was referring to at the opening when I said we’ll sort out the division of labor. I’m not overly concerned about and I’m excited about it.”
Should Banner start at right tackle, it would then be a debate on who to shift over to left tackle. Banner can not play at any other spot, so either Okorafor would shift back to left tackle or Moore would continue to man that spot with Okorafor as the swing tackle and top backup at both spots. One thing that is hard to measure, however, is leadership. That is what Ben Roethlisberger believes the Steelers will get with Banner returning.
“Zach’s one of the leaders of that group,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s a guy who’s got experience. He brings passion and fire. For a lineman, sometimes the heart that you bring can be stronger than your talent. With a guy that’s got all kinds of heart and passion and fire for this team and for protecting the quarterback, it’s never a bad thing to have.”
The Steelers’ offensive line has not been great by any means, but they are an improving unit that is at least starting to waver towards a league-average unit. Banner’s return could disrupt the continuity between the starting five, but if the Steelers feel he is one of the best two tackles on the team, they should start him moving forward.