Player: Matt Feiler
Position: Offensive Line
Free Agent Status: Restricted
2019 Salary Cap Hit: $645,000
2019 Season Breakdown:
By far the biggest name for the Steelers among their pending free agents who are not restricted is Matt Feiler. At least, his role on the team is much more significant than any of the other players who are restricted or exclusive rights free agents. Arguably, he is the second-most important player overall behind Bud Dupree.
Because Feiler, after all, is the team’s starting right tackle, and has been for most of the past two seasons, making 26 starts in that span, including all 16 games last year, though one of those 16 starts actually came at left guard.
It’s that versatility—he has also started a game at right guard—that gets him listed as an offensive lineman generally rather than specifically as a tackle, because he could start at multiple positions. There is a scenario that is not far-fetched at all that sees him open the 2020 season at left guard, after all, if B.J. Finney walks in free agency and Ramon Foster is released.
That’s because there are two young tackles behind him in Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor who would love the chance to start. That could factor into the Steelers’ thinking, but you know that at the bare minimum, he has to be retained in some form or fashion, whether that’s with a long-term vision of him being at tackle or somewhere else.
Free Agency Outlook:
As a restricted free agent, the Steelers have some options. As they did with Finney last year, they would almost surely tender him at the second-round level, since they would not be protected otherwise, as a former undrafted free agent.
But the question that follows is whether or not it will end there. Finney was not a starter. Feiler is a starter. The team negotiated a four-year contract for Alejandro Villanueva three years ago when he was an exclusive rights free agent.
It’s not a stretch by any means to believe that the team will work out a long-term contract with Feiler this offseason. Really, if anything, this might be a somewhat underrated story this offseason, considering the fact that we are talking about a starter, and neither of his backups have much more than about 200 or so snaps under their belts.