One topic that I touched on as we were approaching the start of training camp during the dead time of the season was the fact that Matt Feiler, the frontrunner for the starting right tackle job, will pretty much for the first time since his rookie season with the Houston Texans, get a chance to focus primarily on playing tackle.
Since he’s been with the Pittsburgh Steelers, originally signing with them as a Reserve/Future play in 2015, he has worked at guard much more than tackle, especially over the past two years, and even got time at center in the preseason a year ago. Until they needed a tackle during the regular season.
Despite the fact that he barely even took a snap at tackle in the preseason, he found himself starting the majority of the season, and gradually got better and better as the year went on. Now, he is growing into one role, for the most part, though he has also been getting work at guard, in part to allow Chukwuma Okorafor to get some work with the first-team group as well. And that’s a big deal.
“I’ve been working guard mostly since I’ve been here, so getting the opportunity to play tackle again during the season just made me feel good about the hard work the coaches saw me put in and just the effort and everything”, Feiler told Dan Scifo of the Associated Press. “It was good exposure for me and just good to help out and show my versatility”.
Added 11th-year veteran Ramon Foster, who once played tackle in an emergency, I believe, in the preseason, “being at tackle for the most part, he’s getting a chance to really specialize at being a tackle. It’s a lot different than being a guard, but I’m excited for him”.
Feiler’s first career start actually came in the season finale in 2017. The Steelers gave David DeCastro the game off to rest ahead of the postseason, so Feiler started in his place at right guard (B.J. Finney was starting for Maurkice Pouncey), and he more than held his own.
His next 10 starts, all last season, came of course at tackle, where he hopes to start 16 games this year. He has done everything right so far to keep that job, holding off the young Okorafor, but we’re still very early in the process, which will be determined primarily through the preseason games when they actually face people other than their teammates, who will be able to hit the quarterback.
Of course, the Steelers believe that whoever wins the job will be more than skilled enough to be up to the task, which is why they were prepared to trade Marcus Gilbert at the start of the offseason for a sixth-round pick. Whether it’s Feiler or Okorafor, the line should be in good hands.