Not a lot has changed for Matt Feiler over the past few years. Not a lot, at least, in terms of how he prepares himself, because so much outside of that has indeed changes for the third-year Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman. Once on the verge of irrelevance, Feiler is the front-runner for a starting job this summer, but neither that nor his experience from a year ago has done much to change how he goes about his business.
When asked about that, his response was “not really”, according to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “There’s always preparation to be done, and ways to get better and I have got to keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing because to me I feel like it’s been working for me. So it’s an ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ mentality”.
Feiler was originally signed as a college free agent by the Houston Texans back in 2014. He spent his rookie season on their practice squad before the Steelers brought him in a year later. At that point, he was still working almost exclusively at tackle.
His work evolved over the next few years, however, and he became primarily a guard. After spending the 2015 and 2016 seasons on the practice squad, Feiler did finally make the 53-man roster in 2017, mainly as a guard alongside B.J. Finney as the reserves, but also for his ability to play tackle.
Of course, he ended up starting most of the 2018 season at right tackle, thanks in part to a domino effect. Chris Hubbard left in free agency the year before that, and Jerald Hawkins was supposed to to become the next swing tackle, but he tore his quad in OTAs. That left unpolished rookie Chukwuma Okorafor as the next man up.
Okorafor did serve as the swing tackle, but when Marcus Gilbert went down for an extended period of time, they chose to go with the more experienced player, giving Feiler the nod to start, and he acquitted himself more than well, which kept him in the lineup.
So yes, quite a bit has changed during that time. But what hasn’t changed is who he is and how he works. He can’t, because he knows it has been his work ethic that has helped to drive him to reach this point where he is on the verge of becoming an NFL starter—with the possibility of earning a nice contract next offseason as a restricted free agent if he plays well enough.
But he is also not taking his shot to start for granted, and knows that he has to earn it. Once training camp opens, the real battle will begin, and he will have to fend off Okorafor and Hawkins, and perhaps even Zach Banner as well in what has become a crowded field at tackle.