There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum hundreds upon hundreds of new players under the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: OL Matt Feiler
Roster Vulnerability: Low-Medium
Role Vulnerability: Medium
The Steelers carried nine offensive linemen last season, Matt Feiler being among them, and since then have lost one of those nine. That would seem to imply that Feiler is a shoe-in to retain his post this year, right?
While there is a very good chance that that ends up being the case, it can’t be written in stone. It hinges on two things: whether or not the Steelers use a draft pick on an offensive lineman (which I think is pretty likely), and whether or not they will have the luxury of carrying nine linemen again (which is not always the case).
The problem arises that Feiler does not have any eligibility for the practice squad, so if he does not make the team, the Steelers lose him. This I think played a big role in his making the 53-man roster a year ago. But we will have to see how the draft plays out.
The team carried only four inside linebackers and four safeties last year, and they often carry more than that at those positions. They have also carried four tight ends fairly often in the recent past. If they draft one, that opens up that door. On the other hand, they don’t have to carry six wide receivers like they did last year.
It does seem that the team genuinely likes him, giving him the opportunity to start at right guard in the season finale with many starters getting the game off. Feiler performed quite well in that role, and the Steelers would surely like to keep him if it makes sense.
But he is not the top backup along the interior nor on the outside, those spots belonging to B.J. Finney and Jerald Hawkins. A draft pick could put his position on the roster at risk. But they also could not draft the position at all knowing that they have him. The impending end of Ramon Foster’s career could also be on the horizon at 32.