The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2017 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Nevertheless, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: Matt Feiler
Position: Offensive Lineman
Experience: 1 Years
He may have the fewest accrued seasons of the Steelers’ offensive linemen, but Matt Feiler, a second-year player, is not the youngest. The Bloomsburg native will turn 26 in July, not because he entered the draft late, but because he blossomed late.
Originally an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans in 2014, Feiler spent all but two games of his first three seasons in the NFL as a practice squad player, with one year in Houston and then in Pittsburgh for most of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. After Ryan Harris was injured in 2016, he did spend two games as an inactive player on the 53-man roster before being moved to the practice squad.
With his eligibility for the practice squad up, however, Feiler knew that he either had to make the team or find a job in another profession, because he had to make a 53-man roster. the Steelers knew this, too, and they gave him every opportunity to showcase himself in the preseason.
Fortunately for both sides, he showed up ready to play and turned in his best performance to date, really adapting to the guard position after spending most of his time earlier in his career working as a tackle. His versatility was obviously a bonus as well.
And when he did make the 53-man roster, he did end up playing in games at both guard and tackle. He served as the swing tackle early in the season after Marcus Gilbert was injured, favored over Jerald Hawkins, though the latter was given that job in the second half of the year.
When the team was resting starters in the season finale, though, the coaching staff gave him the opportunity to start at right guard for David DeCastro, and he turned in a very encouraging performance in that game, which inspired me to take a closer look at it at the time.
Pittsburgh has gotten three years’ worth of time with Feiler and that investment has finally started to pay off. He has already been retained as an exclusive rights free agent, and with Hubbard gone, there is a clear opening. The question is, will he spend more time working at tackle this offseason than he did in the past two years? I would guess so. He may even get some reps at center to be an emergency option, as Hubbard was, and Trai Essex before him.