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: The Steelers will work out a long-term contract extension for Matt Feiler before he plays the 2020 season under a restricted free agent tender.
Explanation: Matt Feiler has started 25 games at right tackle (and one at left guard for some reason) over the course of the past two seasons. After three years of marinating on practice squads, he has come into his own as a legitimate starter over the past three seasons. The Steelers would have some leverage in negotiating with him now as a restricted free agent rather than as an unrestricted free agent.
Considering the fact that they gave Alejandro Villanueva, at a similar age and with similar starting experience, a four-year contract when he was an exclusive rights free agent, it would be nothing short of surprising if the Steelers allow Matt Feiler to enter into 2020 without some long-term security that they will have him around.
Though he will admittedly turn 28 this season, he still has at least a few good years left him in, especially considering he hardly did anything for his first four years in the NFL. He is still very much a growing player who will get even better. He has proven capable of starting, at multiple positions, and if they don’t pay him something like a starter now, somebody will pay him, even more, in 2021.
The versatility argument is largely null and void when you have David DeCastro and, presumably, B.J. Finney locked in as your guards of the future, and Feiler is nowhere near versatile enough that you would ever want him as your starting center.
That means he’s either right tackle or he’s nothing, for at least the next several years. And the Steelers have a couple of young tackles with a lot of promise in Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner. While they can’t guarantee one of them to start in 2020, they should at least let the year play out, with Feiler under the RFA tender, to see if they have a future starter in one of them before committing to an older player with less upside who is merely solid.