The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers need to let Matt Feiler stick to playing right tackle.
Explanation: While Feiler is the clear frontrunner to start at right tackle, as he has outperformed Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, and Jerald Hawkins, he hasn’t spent much time playing there lately. Through two preseason games, he’s played 50 snaps at guard, and none at tackle. He last played a preseason snap at tackle in 2016.
It’s borderline mindboggling at this point how little opportunity the Steelers are giving Feiler to settle into the right tackle position when it’s really become quite clear that he is going to be the starter at that position in Week One.
While he performed admirably in 10 games last season at right tackle after getting very little work there in training camp in the offseason, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t let him maximize his time there. Having versatility is great, but utility men can turn into quality starters if allowed to settle into one position, and the team isn’t letting him do that.
The major assumption at the heart of this statement is that the battle for the right tackle position is over, and even has already been over. That is simply not the case, hasn’t been the case, and shouldn’t have been the case.
Okorafor is a second-year player who has only been playing football for a relative handful of years. He needs every opportunity to get reps as he continues to learn the game to give him a fair shot at competing for the job.
Even assuming that he has fairly lost it through two games, that’s fine. If that’s the case, then Feiler can work the game at right tackle next week and Okorafor can go back to second-string. There is enough time remaining between now and the start of the regular season for him to get his work in. if he makes it through the whole preseason without playing any tackle snaps, then perhaps we can talk about this being an issue, and only then if it actually shows up in-game in the regular season as an issue.