The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Is interior offensive line depth being overlooked in the event that Matt Feiler wins the starting right tackle job?
The Steelers tend to vary between eight and nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster depending upon the year, with the two biggest factors being how versatile the backup linemen are and, most importantly, how many talented linemen they have versus needs at other positions to carry extra players.
Last year was a season in which they carried nine linemen, and they very nearly needed all of them, with only Zach Banner never being asked to start a game. Matt Feiler, of course, ended up starting the majority of the season, but B.J. Finney and Chukwuma Okorafor also started at least one game apiece.
Feiler made 10 starts at right tackle, but that was as an injury replacement. If he wins the starting right tackle job outright, does that change the Steelers’ priorities concerning where the backup offensive linemen should fit? Because technically speaking, Feiler is one of the two interior reserves along with Finney.
In other words, in the event that more than one interior offensive lineman is injured, Feiler would have to kick inside to guard, with either Okorafor or Jerald Hawkins, or even Banner, depending on how the offseason goes, filling in at right tackle.
The Steelers generally prefer to have as few moving parts as possible, however, so the preference would be that they have another backup lineman capable of performing at a starter level along the interior if necessary.
The current candidates on the roster would include R.J. Prince and Patrick Morris, returning from the practice squad, as well as the recently-signed J.C. Hassenauer, who played in the AAF. Prince is not (currently) center-capable, but the other two are. None of them have had any experience on a 53-man roster before. the former two are technically first-year players, the latter a rookie because he has never been on a team at any point in the year before now.