It’s not often that the Pittsburgh Steelers opt to fiddle with things that don’t need fiddling with, but they did that this past week when they opted to seek alternatives to B.J. Finney as the top interior reserve.
With Ramon Foster missing a second straight game, the team took the unorthodox approach of moving guard-capable right tackle Matt Feiler inside, and starting backup tackle Chukwuma Okorafor. In doing so, they made changes at two positions, something that they typically try to avoid as often as possible.
Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked during his pre-game press conference if it was the plan going forward to continue to take this approach for the following game, coming up on Thursday against the Cleveland Browns.
“It depends on who we have available to us, coupled with who we’re facing”, he said. “What we did last week was appropriate because of who we had available to us and what we were facing, particularly with Aaron Donald and his pass-rushing abilities on the interior. We just thought it was best to get three tackle-like guys on the field in an effort to get our very best pass [protectors]”.
Among the motivations to make this move was likely the fact that Feiler is the strongest among their offensive linemen. He has also worked inside extensively during the offseasons, and really for the majority of his Steelers career outside of the past two regular seasons.
“We’ve got a different set of challenges this week in terms of Myles Garrett and company, but we also potentially have got a different mix in terms of who’s available to us”, Tomlin noted. “We’re optimistic about Ramon [Foster] being available to us. We’re going to use the appropriate mix based on those circumstances”.
He noted that this goes not just for the offensive line, but others areas as well, particularly those on offense that have dealt with injuries, “because we’re just trying to win a game. That’s where we are. We’ve been in that phase, particularly in a lot of positions on offense, for the better part of the year”.
“Such is life”, Tomlin continued. “We’ll put together a plan that best fits the talents and traits of the people that we have available to us, not only in the offensive line, but in the backfield and at the wide receiver position”.
The ideal outcome for Thursday would simply be for Foster to return and cement the offensive line at the left guard position, because he remains their best option for that spot as an 11-year veteran. With it being a short week, however, that is not exactly a sure thing.