The Pittsburgh Steelers have played eight games during the 2018 regular season. Matt Feiler has started three of them at right tackle. I’m pretty sure nobody was expecting that, especially not after they drafted Chukwuma Okorafor, and they still had Jerald Hawkins.
Feiler, in his second year on the 53-man roster, spent his first three years in the NFL on practice squads. He was given the opportunity to start the season finale at right guard last year and played well, and has been the backup tackle so far this year as well, showing the capability of playing all up and down the line.
After yet another game in which the Steelers’ offensive line allowed a sack or fewer and over 100 yards for a rusher, Head Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about what it means for the team to be able to get quality performances out of Feiler over the past two weeks that Marcus Gilbert has missed, and going back to Week Three in Tampa as well.
“You know, the standard is the standard, and Matt is just the latest guy to kind of display that”, Tomlin said. “We got a lot of guys that are capable, and we just respect what everyone is capable of, and we expect everybody when given an opportunity to be a reason why we’re successful. So there’s not a lot of congratulations in regards to that”.
Last season, Chris Hubbard started the majority of the season at right tackle due to injuries and suspensions, and he also started three games the year before. He was able to parlay that stint into a starting career with the Cleveland Browns, and Tomlin talked about that in regards to Feiler.
“We respect Matt and we know he’s capable, and he continues to show that he is, the way others have. The thing that’s unique about Matt, obviously, Chris Hubbard had that role a year ago, so it’s just good for him and his career to continue to ascend”.
Interestingly, it was in the fourth years of both players that each began to really show strides. It was technically in Hubbard’s third season in 2016 after serving one year on the practice squad when he played well in a starting opportunity. For Feiler, it came last year after three years on practice squads, including the past two with the Steelers.
Of course, in Feiler’s case, he is only a second-year player, so he is unable to hit unrestricted free agency until 2021 at the earliest. He will still be an exclusive rights free agent in 2019, and a restricted free agent in 2020, but who knows what happens between now and then.