If all that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ three-year dalliance with former undrafted free agent offensive lineman Matt Feiler nets is the performance that he put forth on Sunday during the team’s regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns, then it will have been worth it.
After spending three years on practice squads, including the past two with the Steelers, Feiler ran out of eligibility and had to either make a team or find another job. He’s been on the team’s 53-man roster all season, though usually inactive. Earlier in the season, he was the backup to the backup tackle, but lost that job.
When the team rested David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey in the season finale, though, it was a chance to kick him inside to guard, where he looked good in the preseason, including on the move, and frankly, he looked like a keeper out there playing.
He and B.J. Finney, starting for Pouncey, worked over Browns nose tackle Danny Shelton early in the game, with Feiler the one to carry him upfield. That large obstruction vacated from the middle of the field, Stevan Ridley found himself an alley for 13 yards.
A couple of plays after that run, the first-year player pulled for the first time, this time looping around the right tackle and two tight ends stationed to his right. He dug out the edge defender and helped create a lane for 16 yards in front of Ridley.
Later in the quarter, the Steelers used him to pull again, this time to the left, but he did the same as he did on the previous play: scooping out the edge defender and putting him on his back. With two tight ends to the left, Ridley was able to get up the field for 21 yards.
Not all was perfect, however. On the end of that drive, looking at a second and goal from the one, Feiler allowed the linebacker, Joe Schobert, to cut underneath his block as he pulled to the right, and he made the tackle on Ridley for no gain. The offense would end up failing to convert on fourth down.
Undeterred, the team continued to use him out in space, and this time on an outside zone run, he was able to force Schobert wide, allowing Fitzgerald Toussaint to convert for five yards on second and three.
Two plays after that, he helped open a hole for seven yards for the back, pulling to his left and, once again, putting the force defender on his back, giving Toussaint a lane to cut inside for a nice first-down run.
Later in the game, with Carl Nassib trying to angle his way around and into the backfield, Feiler showed well to stick with the lineman, chipping him to the side, which provided an alley right through that gap for eight yards on second and nine.
There was no shortage of positive snaps to look at from this game for Feiler, which is largely why I only ended up getting to the second half here, already consisting of seven plays for review. This was a strong closing statement for the first-year player, and likely helps buy him more time in the black and gold, especially if Chris Hubbard leaves in free agency as anticipated.