Steelers notebook: Mammoth offensive lineman survives roster cuts
When training camp began in late July, Zach Banner wasn’t employed by any NFL team.
On Saturday, the massive offensive lineman was among the players kept on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster.
The 6-foot-8, 360-pound Banner, who was signed to a contract on Aug. 12, was the ninth offensive lineman kept by the team, joining backups B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler and rookie third-round pick Chuks Okorafor.
Banner’s status, however, is hardly secure. After players clear waivers Sunday at noon, the Steelers could make several more additions and subtractions to the 53-man roster.
The Steelers kept nine offensive linemen last season coming out of the preseason because Feiler was ineligible for the practice squad.
Banner was drafted in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 but did not survive the initial roster reduction. He signed with Cleveland and played in eight games for the Browns, who released him after the season. Banner spent two months with the Carolina Panthers but was waived in May.
The Steelers signed Banner after injuries to guards Ramon Foster and B.J. Finney early in training camp. Foster just recently returned to practice, while Finney only missed a few days.
Nod goes to Berry
At punter, the Steelers opted to go with experience by keeping veteran Jordan Berry instead of undrafted free agent Matt Wile.
Wile had the more impressive camp, averaging 49 yards and 48.8 net on eight punts. He also dropped four punts inside the 20. Berry averaged 42.9 yards (and 35.1 net) on 12 attempts. He had four punts downed inside the 20.
Berry, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019, will earn $1.907 million this season. Wile would have earned $555,000.
Four backs kept
While waiting for Le’Veon Bell to sign his franchise-tag tender, the Steelers will go with three running backs and fullback Roosevelt Nix.
Fifth-round draft choice Jaylen Samuels made the cut along with veteran Stevan Ridley. James Conner will serve as the starter until Bell returns. Ridley carried eight times for 39 yards against Carolina and had a long run of 17 yards.
Youth at linebacker
The Steelers kept two undrafted free agents from this year’s class: linebackers Matthew Thomas and Ola Adeniyi.
Thomas, of Florida State, is among five inside linebackers the Steelers kept, joining starters Vince Williams and Jon Bostic and backups Tyler Matakevich and L.J. Fort
Adeniyi, who played at Toledo, is the only inexperienced outside linebacker. He joins starters T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree and backup Anthony Chickillo. Adeniyi was kept in favor of 2017 seventh-round pick Keion Adams and 2017 undrafted free agent Farrington Huguenin.
Thomas led the Steelers in the preseason with 14 tackles. Adeniyi had a team-high three sacks.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.