Stefen Wisniewski, set to hit 31 over the weekend, has started fewer than eight games in three of the past four seasons. He only started two in 2019 during the regular season, and, in fact, was not even on a team for the first month-plus. But the former second-round pick comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent signing expecting to add to his start total, which currently stands at 103.
Originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2011, Wisniewski spent his first four years in the league there, all the while a full-time starter, including in all 16 games as a rookie. He would notch 61 of his starts, in 61 games, during his time there, which is nearly 60 percent of his total.
It wasn’t until Week Six or so that the Kansas City Chiefs signed him last season off the street, after the Philadelphia Eagles—whom he had been with since 2016, starting and winning in a Super Bowl—released him prior to the start of the year. Already 30, he wondered if that would be it for his career.
He was brought in for depth after the Chiefs had multiple injuries along the line. In Week 15, their starting left guard went down with a high ankle sprain. A spot opened up. He started in the final two games of the regular season as the Chiefs earned a bye week. Then he kept starting, all the way through his second Super Bowl win in three years.
Now he comes to Pittsburgh with an eye toward regaining a full-time starting job for the first time since 2015, during his one season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. “That’s my plan”, he told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who writes that the Steelers—his hometown team—told him upon signing that he would be competing to start at left guard. “I’ve been a starter for most of my career. I’ve started more than 100 games”.
The opening was created after Ramon Foster, the entrenched starter there since 2013, retired at the age of 34. A prime candidate to replace him was B.J. Finney, with whom they were working on an extension before the Seattle Seahawks offered him a deal larger than they were willing to match.
What is interesting is that the main player he likely will be competing with figures to start either way. In reality, he may be competing with himself. If he plays well enough, he could start, leaving the Steelers with the option of keeping Matt Feiler at right tackle. If he is not up to it, Feiler would likely move inside, with the team relying upon one of Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner to man his previous post.
Another competitor could be had through the draft. Even with the Wisniewski signing, depth at the least is still a need. If the season were to begin today, these are the linemen who have a high probability of being on the roster: Alejandro Villanueva; Maurkice Pouncey; David DeCastro; Feiler; Banner; Okorafor; and Wisniewski. Neither Banner nor Okorafor are interior-capable, so another interior lineman is still needed, even if Feiler moves to guard.