It seems that all of a sudden a lot of people know who Matt Feiler is, when just a few weeks ago they might not have. Originally an undrafted free agent tackle of the Texans in 2014, Feiler spent that year on Houston’s practice squad and most of the past two years on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad. He was also briefly on the 53-man roster last year for two games after Ryan Harris was placed on injured reserve.
Much attention is being paid to him now for multiple reasons: 1) the sudden realization that he no longer has practice squad eligibility; 2) his opportunity to play with the first-team offensive line against the Falcons; and 3) the fact that he has actually been doing a decent job.
To be realistic, he was not the first man up, regarding the second point above. B.J. Finney was already starting at center for Maurkice Pouncey. Feiler took Ramon Foster’s spot at left guard. But ordinarily the start might have gone to Chris Hubbard instead of him.
The fact that he got that playing time, to me, means that the Steelers’ coaching staff believes that he has the potential to be worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster. But it might not be their 53-man roster. Giving him that quality workload will put out some good tape for others to evaluate him.
After all, the team has nothing to lose by doing that. If he does not make the team, then that is it. He can’t go on their practice squad, or anybody else’s practice squad, so the Steelers will have no use for him if he fails to make the team. So they might as well see him land with another team if not in Pittsburgh.
Not that he can’t land in Pittsburgh. I posed the question earlier today about just how secure second-year tackle Jerald Hawkins’ bid for a roster spot really is. After missing his rookie season due to a shoulder injury, he has been unspectacular at best, and one could fairly say that Feiler has been better.
While he has spent the past two seasons working at guard, he also has the capability of working at tackle, which is the position he was used at with the Texans and in his first season in Pittsburgh. He started at both guard and tackle in college.
While it is not the full picture, the NFL is largely a meritocracy. Sure, higher draft picks and big free agency signings will get greater leeway with things. But a former fourth-round pick in his second season is not necessarily going to prevent a former undrafted free agent who outperforms him from making the roster.
Of course, it is possible that the Steelers choose to carry nine offensive linemen with both Hawkins and Feiler on the team, even if I would consider that less likely. But one thing is for sure, and that is that a lot more people are aware of him now, even after having already been here for two years.