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Zach Banner on what Mike Tomlin told him during the season: ‘You are my answer for 2021'

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Zach Banner beat out Chuks Okorafor for the starting right tackle position this past training camp and started Week 1 against the Giants at MetLife Stadium. Banner played well in his first career start at right tackle, but he would suffer a devastating ACL tear late in the fourth quarter. After all the hard work in the offseason and training camp -- 59 snaps into the 2020 season, Banner's year was over.

Banner is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, but it's expected that the Steelers will re-sign him. Banner, 27, and coming off an ACL tear with just 59 career snaps as a starter under his belt at right tackle, won't cost the Steelers much. Banner also mentioned last month on Twitter that he had a great exit interview with the Steelers.

Banner is also optimistic about his chances to re-sign with the Steelers because of a conversation he had with Mike Tomlin during the season.

“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 The Athletic.

Banner told Kaboly that he's keeping his discussions with his agent on returning to the Steelers “hush-hush,” but he’s hopeful to potentially receive a short-term contract that could set him up getting a long-term deal down the road.

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

Alejandro Villanueva is set to become an unrestricted free agent next month and Kaboly doesn't expect the Steelers to re-sign him, as he'll make $16 million or more on the open market and his play noticeably declined last year. Banner is projected to start at right or left tackle for the Steelers in 2021.

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