A lot of things can and will happen between now and the start of the 2019 regular season that will shape the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line, a series of dominos, one of which will affect another. If the Steelers choose not to match what Ramon Foster can get on the open market, for example, B.J. Finney will take his place in the lineup and receive a starter’s contract.
If they choose to release the oft-injured Marcus Gilbert, their starting right tackle, then Matt Feiler could find himself in the starting lineup. But if they don’t, he could potentially go all the way back to being inactive on game day.
The Steelers drafted Chukwuma Okorafor in the third round last season with the intention of developing him, and they would be much more likely to give him the opportunity to be the swing tackle than to have the starting job.
Realistically, he could be anywhere from the starting right tackle to the top interior reserve or just one of the linemen (perhaps the only lineman) that does not dress for games, barring injuries, based on how the rest of the offseason plays out along the offensive line.
All Feiler could offer for himself for the moment was, “I really don’t know at this point” about what his role will be in 2019, as he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
One thing that is assured is that he will be on the team, or at least it’s highly implausible that he wouldn’t be. As a two-year veteran without an initial rookie contract, he is an exclusive rights free agent, which means that the Steelers can easily retain him on the cheap, and it would make no sense at all if they were to choose not to do that. But they have not done so just yet.
Feiler spent three seasons on practice squads, including two with the Steelers, before he finally made a 53-man roster in 2017. He served as the swing tackle during Gilbert’s injuries in the first half of that season as Jerald Hawkins nursed a minor injury, and he ended up being needed to play about five snaps at the end of the Lions game after Chris Hubbard suffered a concussion.
Hawkins was going to be the swing tackle this past year with Hubbard leaving in free agency, but he suffered a season-ending injury back in May. So many were projecting Okorafor for that role, but Feiler ended up seizing it for himself, even though he had been playing the interior positions during the past two summers.
By season’s end, he dressed for 11 games and started 10. Okorafor dressed as the game-day swing tackle when Gilbert was healthy, Feiler inactive, but when they needed a starter, they called upon the more experienced player.