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: Matt Feiler’s long-term future will be at guard, whether he plays tackle this year or not.
Explanation: It’s not often that a team moves a starting lineman around to another position to fill a temporary one-game vacancy at another spot, especially when they already have a proven backup. The Steelers did that last year, however, when they moved Matt Feiler over to left guard for one of the two games Ramon Foster missed. He has spent most of his offseasons in Pittsburgh playing guard, in fact, basically up until 2019, and has made a start at right guard in the past as well.
Whether or not the Steelers retain Ramon Foster for the 2020 season, it’s almost assured that he will not be on the 53-man roster in 2021, at which point he will be 35 years old. The fact of the matter is that the team has better depth at tackle than at guard, so Feiler’s flexibility gives them options.
The most enticing option is to move Feiler to guard and allow Zach Banner and Chukuma Okorafor to compete for the starting right tackle job. Okorafor already has a couple of starts under his belt, and Banner has a lot of (quality) playing time as an extra lineman.
While he has proven himself at tackle already, it’s also true that he has done so at guard, and in fact for the better part of his career the Steelers have viewed him more as an interior player, even though he has the size to play outside.
I realize the irony of saying this given the context, but you don’t fix what isn’t broken. We already know that Feiler is a quality starter at right tackle. That’s a done deal. We also know that B.J. Finney is capable of being a starter at left guard.
Plain and simple, the best offensive line combination the Steelers can have in 2020, especially if Foster is not here, is from left to right, Alejandro Villanueva – B.J. Finney – Maurkice Pouncey – David DeCastro – Matt Feiler.
This is also their most experienced line, at the positions at which they have the most experience (barring Foster of course). Moving Feiler to guard implies that Finney is not re-signed or is retained as a backup, which weakens the team.