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Zach Banner on Knee Injury: ‘I’m Going to Get Over This’

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Zach Banner will have surgery on his right knee on Friday, he announced via Twitter on Tuesday evening.

Banner was injured in the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ season opener on Monday and did not return to the game. He is believed to have suffered an ACL injury and will miss the rest of the season.

The game was Banner’s first as the Steelers’ starting right tackle, a role he won after a lengthy training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor, who will now replace Banner.

“I just want everybody to stay optimistic and I appreciate you guys’ wishes and regards from not only teammates, but the love and support of fans and friends and family,” said Banner. “Everything’s going to be OK. I’m going to get over this. I’m very excited about my recovery. I’ll come back even stronger next season. It’s just another obstacle I’ve got to get over and I’m very excited to take on that challenge.”


Earlier on Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged the effort that Banner had put into winning the job as a starting tackle and said that he won’t be defined by this injury, but by how he responds to it.

“It can be a cold game, but it is a lot like life,” Tomlin said. “We are not defined by what happens to us, we are defined by how we respond to it. Whenever unfortunate events like that occurs, we talk openly about that. it’s not that he got injured after all that he has been through and the fight he has been through to get where he is, it is about what he does moving forward and responds to it. He is a competitor, he is a professional and I expect him to smile in the face of adversity.”

Recovery from ACL surgery usually takes at least six months. The ligament connects the shin bones and thigh bones within the knee. UPMC orthopedic surgeon Dr. Freddie Fu said in 2012 that modern surgically repaired ACLs are “very similar to the pre-injury knee.”

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NBC’s Mike Florio Predicts Dim Outlook for JuJu Smith-Schuster in Free Agency

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Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio is not so sure Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to get the pay day he believes he deserves.

Florio joined The PM Team on 93.7 The Fan on Friday, and painted a dim picture of Smith-Schuster’s free agency prospects.

“If Juju wants to be paid like a No. 1 wide receiver, he’s going to be waiting a long, long time,” Florio said.

Smith-Schuster has expressed a desire to remain in Pittsburgh, but their dire salary cap situation had a made a continuation seemingly impossible.

Now that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has signed a new contract and provided the club additional financial flexibility, there may be a path for Smith-Schuster to return. Still, there will not be enough money available to pay him like one of the league’s elite wideouts. 

If that is what Smith-Schuster wants in Pittsburgh, he may be in for a rude awakening as Florio predicts.

Smith-Schuster led the Steelers with 97 receptions in 2020, while also tallying 831 yards and nine touchdowns.

Selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Southern California, Smith-Schuster has 293 receptions, 3,565 yards and 24 touchdowns as a Steeler. He was selected to his first and only Pro Bowl in 2018.

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Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada on Run Game, Roethlisberger

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Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada has spoken publicly for the first time since his promotion in late January.

Canada joined the latest edition of The Standard, the Steelers’ behind-the-scenes web series, and discussed a number of topics, including fixing the run game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his offensive philosophy.

There is no denying Pittsburgh produced the least successful rushing attack in football a season ago, averaging just 84.4 yards per game and 3.6 yards per attempt.

Canada recognizes the Steelers need to improve significantly on the ground, a mandate he implied came down from Team President Art Rooney II.

“He’s made it very clear that that’s got to get better,” Canada said. “When all of us realized that we didn’t get it done we wanted to with our running game and all of who are here are part of that. And we’ve got to improve upon it in a multitude of ways and we’re certainly focused on it. We’re globally studying who’s running the ball well. We’ve always believed in running the football anywhere that I’ve been. You win up front. I believe that. We believe that. I know Coach Tomlin believes that.”

Not only will the Steelers have to better impose their will in the trenches, but Canada knows they will also have to remove the predictability that plagued them last season, especially in the passing game.

“You have to be able to run the football when they know you’re going to run it,” Canada added. “And you have to be able to throw the football when they know you’re going to throw it.”

Canada also gushed over Roethlisberger, who the Steelers announced will be returning for the 2021 season on a one-year contract Thursday.

“He’s such a great competitor. He competes at everything he does and his competitive drive is so strong and so awesome to be around no matter what we’re doing,” Canada said of Roethlisberger.

He also praised the 39-year-old’s accuracy, which he believes sets Roethlisberger apart from his peers.

“And then just his accuracy. And I’ve said this to one of my buddies who’s a quarterback coach somewhere else. Young quarterbacks, I wish there was some way for them to be here and watch how he practices putting the ball in certain spots. It’s such a unique talent that he’s able to do it.”

While Roethlisberger’s new deal has provided the Steelers some much needed financial flexibility, they will still undoubtedly have some tough departures once free agency begins in earnest.

Regardless which players do or do not remain in Pittsburgh heading into the 2021 season, Canada insists his offense will be multi-dimensional and cater to whatever personnel the Steelers have on the offensive side.

“We are going through and looking at the foundation of our offense. And building an offense that will be conducive to whatever talent that we have,” Canada said. “I don’t believe you have a certain system that works and this is all we’re going to do and we have to have the players for that. We have the players we have each year. Our job is to score more points than the team we play on each Sunday.”

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Steelers Sign Center J.C. Hassenauer on One-Year Deal

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed center J.C. Hassenauer to a one-year deal, first reported by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

An exclusive right free agent, Hassenauer was almost a lock to return to Pittsburgh in 2021. His new deal with the Steelers is worth $780,000.

Hassenauer proved a vital piece along the Steelers’ offensive line a season ago, seeing action in 15 games and making four starts. He was on the field for 23% of the team’s offensive stats, while also appearing on 50 special teams plays.

Prior to Pittsburgh, Hassenauer signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018, spending the first seven weeks of the season on their practice squad.

He played for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football in 2019.

Hassenauer played his college ball at Alabama. He made just three career starts for the Crimson Tide, with his final coming in the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship game, a 26-23 overtime win over Georgia.

Hassenauer’s agent Blake Baratz confirmed the signing on Twitter on Thursday.

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