Matt Feiler has a bit of a problem. You see, he’s run out of time. In spite of the fact that he looks to be having the best training camp of his career so far, it is not looking like the cards will be in his favor when it comes to sticking with the Pittsburgh Steelers—or anyone else.
It was pointed out to me yesterday that the first-year offensive lineman is not included on the Exempted List, which is a list of players, of whom up to four can be carried on the practice squad, are eligible to be a member under specific conditions.
Many of us, including myself, have been sticking Feiler onto our practice squads during our roster predictions, but he can’t be there. And now I know why, and what I missed. I did not realize that he was actually originally signed by the Texans in 2014.
He spent that season on the Texans’ practice squad. He then spent the majority of the next two seasons on the Steelers’ practice squad—enough in each year to earn an accrued practice squad season. And that means that his time is up.
Under the new rules for the practice squad, any player who has two or fewer years of accrued playing experience on the 53-man roster can be eligible for the practice squad. If a player does not dress a requisite number of games in those seasons, however (I believe the number is six?), then he can remain eligible indefinitely.
But not if he has previously spent three seasons on the practice squad, and even the third season is not guaranteed, as it requires that the team retain a full roster at all times, although that is almost always the case anyway.
So what is next for Feiler? Well, he has to play well enough to convince somebody, whether or not that is the Steelers, that he is deserving of a spot on a 53-man roster. It doesn’t figure to be likely to be with Pittsburgh, however, as they look to be set on likely carrying only eight offensive linemen with roster needs scattered throughout the roster.
Personally, I thought that Feiler played well in the preseason opener, and I believe that Dave Bryan was of a similar opinion. It may well be the case that he is the Steelers’ ninth-best offensive lineman, and his ability to play at both guard and tackle would be valuable.
But not more valuable than the versatility and experience of Chris Hubbard, who has been on the roster for the past three years after spending his rookie season on the practice squad. Hubbard was able to make the jump while he still had time.
And then there is Jerald Hawkins, the second-year tackle who spent his rookie season on injured reserve. While he got off to a slow start so far, the Steelers are certainly not going to cut him just yet. He figures to be inactive for most of the year, I would think, and given further opportunities to develop. Feiler will likely have to find an opportunity with somebody else who has more room and a bigger need.