Guam’s Zach Banner was making a strong debut at starting right tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first game of 2020 against the New York Giants Tuesday at MetLife Stadium. However, a late fourth-quarter knee injury forced him to be carted off the field.
His status was unknown as of press time.
Banner was injured blocking Giants' outside linebacker Oshane Ximines on Ben Roethlisberger’s 8-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster with 5 minutes, 23 seconds left in the game. He needed assistance from teammates to get off the field. While waiting for the cart, a visibly upset Banner, playing in his first career start, was consoled by teammates on the sidelines.
“I don’t know what is going to happen,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “My thoughts and prayers are going to the guys who are injured.”
Early reports from Steelers Depot state Banner's right foot may have gotten stuck in the turf on the play. After the 52nd snap, the report stated, Banner started holding his right knee on a pass play. He went down on the team's final touchdown pass of the night.
Chukwuma Okorafor replaced Banner at right tackle. The Steelers did get the win 26-16.
Despite the win, the Steelers sustained a couple of significant injuries to their offensive line in the fourth quarter, in addition to losing running back James Conner to an ankle injury. Guard Stefen Wisniewski, who started for injured David DeCastro, left with a torn pectoral muscle — a potentially serious injury.
Earning the starting nod
Banner earned the starting position, beating Okorafor for the job, after training during the offseason and most of quarantine, trimming roughly 20 pounds from his frame.
Banner, who played for the University of Southern California in college and was drafted in 2017 by the Indianapolis Colts, hasn't had an easy journey in the NFL, stated a report out of Tribune News Service.
Struggling with weight much of the early portion of his career, Banner got to work, persevering while carving a home for himself on the Steelers roster.
"I kind of closed my circle this offseason,'' Banner said prior to the start of the season, noting he leaned on family and a training support staff to get in better condition.
“And I have no regrets about it and I want to continue through my career doing the same thing.”
As far as his days at USC, Banner said, "I’m a big tape guy, I watch a lot of tape.
“I have had a lot of regrets since senior year, junior year of college, letting myself, allowing myself to become a bigger gentleman.”
Banner added: "The harsh reality and that’s why I say check the tape — I move better, I’ve gotten in shape, it’s a battle, right?
“It’s a battle with your weight, it’s a battle with your mindset, it’s a battle with the mindset that you have to wake up with, that you have to execute every single day.”
On Guam, Banner is a local hero, having held several free local camps for youth football players. As part of his B3 Foundation, Banner continues to inspire, finding ways to continually share his message of the power of education and his love for football and philanthropy while helping children in underprivileged communities throughout the world.