No matter what happens, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have a new starting left guard in 2020, and one who will have started no more than one game there for the team prior to this offseason. Upon the retirement of Ramon Foster and the departure of B.J. Finney in free agency, the expectation is that there will be a competition for the job upcoming.
The two primary candidates figure to be Matt Feiler, a veteran of the team, and Stefen Wisniewski, who was signed during free agency. Feiler has two career starts at guard, including one at left guard last season. Wisniewski has many years of experience playing both guard and center, but is new to the team, and on the wrong side of 30.
Informing the competition will be the progression of the Steelers’ two young tackles, Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor. It’s possible that the deciding factor for moving Feiler over to left guard may not be so much to do with how Wisniewski looks there, but whether or not they feel one of these tackles can be a starter.
Nevertheless, Wisniewski is coming in with the expectation that he has a chance of winning a starting job, and he believes that he will be ready to step into it, even given the complications of this particular offseason.
“I think having experience helps a guy like me out. I’ve played in a lot of systems. I’ve played with a lot of different players”, he told local reporters recently. “In Kansas City last year I was able to step in and it was kind of a seamless transition”. The veteran was only signed by the Chiefs several games into the season, and he would go on to start five games, including the playoffs, at the end of the year.
“I know it’s easier to play next to veterans because veterans have seen it all”, he said. If he does start, he will be playing between multiple-time Pro Bowlers at left tackle and center. “They’ve seen anything a defense can do to you. They know where the problems are on plays, they know where the challenges are, they know how to communicate”.
And that is something that he sees as one of his strengths. “That’s something I do well, is communicate and anticipate what a defense is going to do”, he said. “I know that the Steelers having a veteran line, that’s something that those guys are going to do, and I know we’d fit in well together”.
One of the problems that crept up at the end of last season for the offensive line was a breakdown in communication, so it would be wise, if possible to have a strong communicator who can read and anticipate the defense at the spotter position of left guard. Wisniewski would be more advanced in that aspect than Feiler.