Matt Feiler started 10 games at right tackle in 2018 as a second-year player, active only for the 11 games that starter Marcus Gilbert missed. The one game in which he was active without playing saw Chukwuma Okorafor, who was the swing tackle for the other 15 games, start ahead of him because he was nursing an injury.
The question heading into 2019, with Gilbert now gone after he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals, is whether or not Feiler will start again. That will depend upon whether or not he secures the starting job for himself, his primary competition being Okorafor, the young second-year player.
It would be quite a story if he does win the job, considering where he came from. A graduate of the local Bloomsburg college, a D-II school, he was a four-year starter, first at guard, then tackle, before going undrafted in 2014.
He signed with the Houston Texans after he was a rookie minicamp invitee for them, but failed to make the 53-man roster. He did stick to the practice squad for the entire season. He was brought to camp the following year, but did not make the cut again, only this time, the Pittsburgh Steelers claimed him off waivers.
The story didn’t necessarily change from there. He remained on the practice squad that year, and then again in 2016. The following season, he was out of practice squad eligibility, to he either had to make the team or hope that somebody else would sign him to their 53-man roster. otherwise he would have to find another job, and perhaps wait until next offseason looking for another Reserve/Future contract.
“People don’t really expect much out of you because you go through college and maybe you don’t have the speed or size that D-I players come out with”, Feiler told Jonathan Bombulie of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You’re kind of already below the curve there, I guess you could say. It’s being overlooked by everybody, like a, ‘who are you? Where are you from?” type of thing. That’s one of the biggest challenges, I think”.
His coaches and teammates know who he is now, however. He has 11 starts under his belt in total, including a successful excursion filling in for David DeCastro at right guard when the All-Pro was rested in the regular season finale at the end of the 2017 campaign.
Now entering his third season, he has risen from afterthought to potential starter. He is being given the opportunity to win that role, easily arguable as the favorite to do so after making 10 starts at right tackle last year and taking the bulk of the first-team reps in spring training.
Should he win the competition, it would make for an interesting pairing of tackles for the Steelers’ line with Alejandro Villanueva, a decorated Army Ranger who couldn’t even earn a contract for several years as a tight end, finally coming back as a defensive end before the Steelers spun the wheel and stuck him with Mike Munchak for a year on the practice squad.