After bouncing across three different NFL teams in two years, Zach Banner’s hard work and efforts finally earned him a starting position as the right offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the off-season, a quagmire of coronavirus uncertainty, the 6-foot 8,335-pound Banner remained focused and sharp, eventually beating Chukwuma Okorafor for the number 1 position.
Banner, four years away from the University of Southern California, had gone from an uncertain pick to the No. 137 of the fourth round that coaches hoped would reduce and accelerate, to the best option to protect Ben Roethlisberger, the two of the Steelers-time Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.
In the first game of the season, a match against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Banner was injured by blocking outside linebacker Oshane Ximines on a Roethlisberger fourth-quarter touchdown pass against JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers won the match, 26-16, but the victory proved costly as Banner was helped to get back on his feet and taken off the pitch.
An MRI confirmed Banner and Steelers’ fear – a right ACL tear at the end of the season.
“At first I was frustrated after the injury, but just as we got through the surgical part, now I’m more motivated than ever,” Banner told the Guam Daily Post. “I want to do everything I can to continue to make myself, my family and Guam proud,” added Banner, who, as part of his B3 Foundation, has twice led youth football clinics in Guam.
Banner confirmed the September 18 surgery was a success.
“The surgery went well,” he said. “Rehabilitation is going even better.
“Yesterday I took off the stitches, so now the real work begins, to resume.”
While the Steelers game against Tennessee has been postponed and rescheduled to week 7 after several Titans tested positive for COVID-19, Banner is thrilled to be a key member of the undefeated Steelers.
“I’m so proud of our guys and our team,” he said. “But our mindset in Pittsburgh is focused on the ultimate goal: Super Bowl confetti falling on us.
“But we are proud of what we have done so far.”