Steelers News

Mike Tomlin On OL Shakeup: We ‘Wanted To Get The Best Pass-Protecting Group Out There’

One of the most curious decisions made by the coaching staff this year was to shake up the offensive line for last night’s game in light of the continue absence of Ramon Foster at left guard, who has missed two games due to a concussion. On a short week, it’s not clear if he will make it back in time for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Thursday game against the Cleveland Browns.

Rather than do what they have been doing for years and plugging in B.J. Finney, who has previously started five games at left guard in Foster’s place, including last week’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, they decided to move Matt Feiler over from right tackle, and replaced him in the lineup with Chukwuma Okorafor.

On the unusual line combination, head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game, “we just wanted to get the best pass-protecting group out there, so essentially we had three tackles on the field. Matt Feiler is a very capable guard, but he’s been standing up at tackle. He’s a good pass protector”.

Since the 2018 season, Feiler has made 18 starts at right tackle, though Okorafor did get one start in there last year while the former was nursing an injury. He had not played a single snap this season prior to last night, with Zach Banner assuming the gameday swing tackle role.

“We thought that that was the best mix under the circumstances to give us a chance”, Tomlin added. “We’ll evaluate tomorrow. Those were our intentions going into the game. We proceeded, and we proceeded without fear. We’ll see what it looks like from an evaluation standpoint”.

‘The circumstances’ would be the Los Angeles Rams, and particularly their absolute star defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is widely regarded, and for good reason, as the best defensive player in the game. While he was not consistently dominant against the Steelers’ line last night, he had his isolated moments in which he showed just how good he is.

What is left to find out going forward is if this was a one-game decision, because if not, we could see the same lineup as early as Thursday, as mentioned, if Foster remains out due to the concussion. It will be interesting to see what the coaches’ evaluation of the game tape reveals to them about the line combination.

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