In 2019, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner attracted more than his share of attention whenever he entered a game. It wasn’t because of his size, though at 6-8 and 360 pounds, he’s one of the largest players on the team. Serving as an extra blocker in jumbo packages, Banner would draw hearty cheers every time Heinz Field public address announcer Larry Richert intoned: “No. 72 is reporting as an eligible receiver.”
Banner admits he dreams of catching a pass and has run some pass routes, so it’s perhaps no surprise he took mock offense at not being included when Steelers.com published an article highlighting the team’s tight ends. Banner’s name was nowhere to be found on a list that included Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry, Vance McDonald, Kevin Rader and recent free-agent acquisition Dax Raymond.
And when the Steelers’ social media team promoted the article, Banner tweeted: @Steelers don’t you ever disrespect me like this again…
Eric Ebron, the tight end pictured in the team’s promo then got in on the fun, tweeting: “Bro relax!! Ima let u [spike] the ball when I score promise”
Zach Banner Competing to Start at Right Tackle in 2020
Never mind that if all goes well this season, Banner won’t be reporting as a tackle-eligible because he’ll be the starting right tackle, which one Twitter follower helpfully pointed out:
Banner is expected to compete for that position with fellow lineman Chuks Okorafor, with the consolation prize being the swing tackle job.
Another follower simply quipped:
“#72 has reported as ineligible”
And yet another wondered whether the franchise tag is bigger for a tackle or a tight end, perhaps a reference to how Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree claims he’s not a linebacker, in hopes of receiving the salary of a franchise defensive end.
Finally, another Twitter user simply stated: “Dude! It says TE’s,… you’re a receiver #justsayin”
The Future of Pittsburgh’s Offensive Line
In all seriousness, though, the Steelers are no doubt hoping that both Banner and Okafor develop into starting-caliber tackles, as left tackle Alejandro Villanueva is expected to hit unrestricted free agency in 2021 and the team could use an infusion of youth along its offensive line.
Fourth-round draft pick Kevin Dotson has the potential to replace the now-retired Ramon Foster at left guard, but it may not be long before the Steelers also have to ponder a future without center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro. Pouncey and DeCastro are both on the wrong side of thirty and both are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in 2022.
In the meantime, free-agent acquisition Stefen Wisniewski has the ability to serve as a backup at guard or center—or perhaps serve as a stopgap solution as the starting left guard.
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