It could have been a lot worse, don’t get me wrong. But the Pittsburgh Steelers ended up needing to test their depth last night in ways that they were no doubt hoping would never prove to be necessary. Not only did they play a snap with both of their starting safeties injured on the sideline, they had to close out the game without their backup to their starter at right tackle.
And that backup of the backup of the starter at right tackle just so happened to be a player who has been in the league for years, but had never taken a snap. After Chris Hubbard left the game late in order to be tested for a concussion, the Steelers were left with no other options other than to insert Matt Feiler into the starting lineup.
To be somewhat blunt, it is not exactly a ringing endorsement that the coaching staff, and Mike Munchak, has been more comfortable with the idea of Feiler needing to take snaps at tackle than they are with Jerald Hawkins, who showed promise before getting injured in his rookie season, but was very inconsistent throughout the summer this year.
It’s a good thing for both the Steelers and for Feiler that things ended up working out as they did. For Feiler, he found himself fresh out of practice squad eligibility, which meant that the team had to carry him on the 53-man roster, or lose him. Another team would have to think enough of him to give him a roster spot for him to ever play again.
Hubbard’s injury came late in the game, with under seven minutes to play, on second and 13. He was asked to pull from his right tackle position across the formation, and this resulted in somewhat of a head-on collision. He immediately grabbed his head after disengaging from the block.
A Boomsburg native, Feiler had to check in at that point, all 6’6”, 330 pounds of him, for the first official snap of his NFL career. At right tackle, where he had not worked—or hardly worked—over the course of the past couple of years as the Steelers tried to turn him into a guard.
I should say his first official offensive snap, by the way, as he has gotten some work on special teams protecting on the field goal unit. Truth be told, he didn’t have to play many snaps at all, but he seemed to do well enough. Maybe enough to justify taking a closer look at when the coaches film comes out.
But in the meantime, Hubbard has to go through the concussion protocol, which is in my opinion always a worrisome thing when you are talking about head injuries.
If there is any upside, it is that he has two weeks before he will have to play again, and by then, I would think that Marcus Gilbert will finally be ready to return.