Player: Matt Feiler
Position: Offensive Lineman
Free Agent Status: Restricted
2018 Salary Cap Hit: $555,000
2018 Season Breakdown:
Matt Feiler had the sort of season that not only backup offensive linemen dream of, but their coaches do as well. Due to injuries, he ended up starting 10 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers that season, and for the most part, he generally held his own, passing himself off as being capable of being a full-time starter.
Which is pretty significant for a number of reasons, no the least of which being the fact that he had spent most of the past two offseasons receiving more work at guard than at tackle. He even worked at center some this past year.
But it was 10 starts in 11 games for him at right tackle due to extended injuries for Marcus Gilbert, who is entering the final year of his contract and has missed the majority of a season for the second year in a row. Feiler could help convince them to replace him.
Feiler seems equally strong as a run blocker as he is a pass protector, and he uses his great strength in both areas. He has his struggles with athletic edge rushers, but that’s a problem every lineman on the edge faces.
The funny thing is that Feiler didn’t even dress for all but one of the games in which he didn’t start, and he only dressed for that 11th game as an emergency injury option. B.J. Finney is the top interior reserve and Chukwuma Okorafor dressed as the in-game swing tackle, but when a starter was needed from first snap to last, Feiler was asked to handle that role.
Free Agency Outlook:
This is perhaps the most open and shut discussions that there is in free agency for the Steelers this year, which makes it a bit odd that it hasn’t been done yet. Feiler is an exclusive rights free agent and he has proven that he is capable of starting games and playing well at both guard and tackle.
The Steelers can offer him the minimum and he would have no choice but to take it. It’s obvious that he is more than valuable enough to justify that, and regardless of the crowd at tackle, he can and will still kick inside as a backup interior lineman as well.
The only think that could possibly be slowing things down, outside of the obvious lack of need for urgency in the situation, is the possibility that the Steelers are considering him as a full-time starter at tackle, which would mean releasing Gilbert.
In such an event, the Steelers would work out a long-term deal for him as they did for Alejandro Villanueva two offseasons ago. But even if that were the case, the deal would be worked out later, which being tendered as an exclusive rights free agent in the meantime, as had been done for Villanueva previously.