Sport

Zach Banner: Mike Tomlin told me, “You are my answer for 2021”

Zach Banner is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next month.

The former fourth-round pick out of USC is on his third team after the Colts drafted him and the Browns cut him. But he found a home in Pittsburgh, beginning the 2020 season as the team’s starting right tackle.

But then he tore his ACL midway through Week 1, setting up a lengthy rehab.

The offensive lineman seems optimistic about his chances to re-sign with the Steelers, in part because of his conversations with head coach Mike Tomlin.

“Coach T looked at me and said, ‘You are my answer for 2021, so I need you to focus on your knee, don’t worry about anything else.’ That was the best thing that I could’ve heard,” Banner said, via Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com.

Kaboly noted Banner could be a cheaper option to replace left tackle Alejandro Villanueva at left tackle in 2021, since Villanueva may command $16 million in salary. Banner said he’d keep his discussions with his agent on returning to Pittsburgh “hush-hush,” but he’s hopeful to potentially receive a short-term contract that could set him up to cash in later.

“I am betting on myself again some way, somehow,” Banner said.

In four seasons, Banner has appeared in 23 games with two starts. He played 59 snaps in Week 1 before suffering the ACL injury.