On Wednesday March 16 the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that quarterback Dwayne Haskins has signed his one-year restricted free agent tender. Minutes later Teresa Varley of Steelers.com also announced that the team has terminated the contract of veteran offensive tackle Zach Banner.
Both moves were expected, in light of the fact that Haskins was tendered on March 14 and the Steelers signed two unrestricted free agent offensive linemen in the past two days (Mason Cole and James Daniels). Never mind that the Steelers also re-signed starting tackle Chukwuma Okorafor to a lucrative three-year contract on Monday.
The latest Steelers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Steelers newsletter here!
Dwayne Haskins Gets One More Season to Impress
As for Haskins, he figures to get one more year to show he can be a factor in Pittsburgh’s quarterback equation. The Steelers originally signed him to a one-year contract in January 2021, and though he didn’t see any regular-season action last season, the former-first round pick (Washington, No. 15 overall in 2019) told Varley he still believes he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
“I feel like I can be a starter in this league. I got drafted for that reason,” he said back in January. “I definitely believe I have the talent to. I just haven’t put it all together yet. And that’s something I have to do this offseason to put myself in a position to play.
But in order to earn regular-season playing time in 2022, Haskins will have to overtake veteran No. 2 quarterback Mason Rudolph on the Steelers’ depth chart. He’ll also need to beat out former No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky, who will also be attempting to reclaim one of the 32 starting QB jobs in the NFL. Trubisky started 50 games over the course of four years with the Chicago Bears but spent last season backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo.
Zach Banner No Longer ‘Tackle-Eligible’
As for Zach Banner, he entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. But after he was waived by the Colts in early September of that year he was claimed by Cleveland and went on to appear in eight games for the 0-16 Browns. In March 2018 he was waived by Cleveland and claimed by the Carolina Panthers.
Finally, he signed with the Steelers in the summer of 2018, where he developed into a popular backup who was cheered loudly at Heinz Field every time he checked into a game as an eligible receiver. He was also lauded for his social media skills and his work in the community, including ongoing efforts to fight racism.
Most famously, Banner won over the Internet with his ‘Hulkish’ interpretation of the iconic dance scene from the 1983 movie Flashdance. He also relished his fame as a ‘tackle-eligible,’ feigning outrage when Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass intended for offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins during the 2020 season. He also expressed mock outrage when he was not included in a team promo that highlighted the team’s pass-catching tight ends.
But in the end, a serious knee kept Banner from realizing his potential. A week after earning the Steelers’ starting right tackle job in September 2020, he suffered a torn ACL and missed the remainder of the season.
Nevertheless, in 2021 the Steelers signed him to a two-year, $9.5 million contract, as per overthecap.com. But he played a total of just 32 snaps in 2021, according to Pro Football Reference, with only five of those snaps coming on offense.
All told Banner appeared in 22 games for the Steelers over the course of four years. By releasing him the team saves his $5 million salary in 2022, but also incurs a $1.625 million dead money cap charge.
Follow the Heavy on Steelers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
• Ex-Steelers, Bears CB Artie Burns Finds New NFL Home: Report
• Steelers Hire Isaac Williams as Assistant Offensive Line Coach
• Ex-Steelers RB James Conner Makes Final Decision on Future With Cardinals