The Pittsburgh Steelers probably have the most experienced, most veteran, and longest-tenured offensive line in the league. Ramon Foster has been with the organization since 2009. Maurkice Pouncey arrived only a year later. David DeCastro showed up in 2012. Alejandro Villanueva has even already been here since 2014, and Matt Feiler first joined the team a year later.
After being an injury fill-in at right tackle for Marcus Gilbert in 2018, the Steelers made the decision to let Gilbert go, who had been their starter at the position since 2011, turning the keys over to Feiler. He did have to compete for the job this past summer, though I expect he was always the clear favorite, having done well over 10 starts the previous year.
It’s fair to say that the Steelers’ offensive line room is one of strong personalities, but also great camaraderie. If you’re in that position in the locker room, you want to be accepted into that brotherhood and feel compelled to prove yourself, to show guys like Pouncey and Foster that you’re one of them.
Said Feiler recently in an interview with Missi Matthews, “I think everybody is accepted. As a young guy you want to prove to the older guys you are serious about what you are doing, and you want to be here for the long run”.
The Bloomsburg product was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans in 2014, spending that season on their practice squad. He spent his first two years with the Steelers on their practice squad, before making the 53-man roster for the first time in 2017, and only after he had run out of practice squad eligibility.
But though he wasn’t contributing—indeed, often not even on the 53-man roster, and for the games he didn’t start in 2018, he was a healthy scratch—he still feels as though he was accepted as part of the group, and the veterans have done a good job embracing the young players, including guys like Fred Johnson and Garrett Brumfield, a pair of rookie undrafted free agents in 2019.
“All of that helps on the field”, Feiler said of the bond that the linemen forge off the field, which includes weekly meetings at Pouncey’s house. “Sometimes when we get up to the line of scrimmage we communicate, but we already know what we are doing so we don’t have to say anything out loud. It helps we are all on the same page. It’s a testament to the guys who have been in the room for so long, being able to hold the room together for so long”.
One can argue that the Steelers’ offensive line is on the downswing overall, but they are still one of the best in the league, especially when it comes to the all-important pass protection. Mike Munchak’s influence still looms large, but they are still comfortable with Shaun Sarrett now presiding over the group—a group that can pretty much run itself at this point.