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: An offensive line with Matt Feiler at left guard instead of right tackle is better for the run game.
Explanation: The starting five is not completely settled right now, with Feiler a possibility to start at two different spots. Depending on where he starts, either Stefen Wisniewski or one of Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor would be in the starting lineup, so that also has to be taken into consideration.
My sense is that Wisniewski is a lot stronger as a pass protector than he is as a run blocker. In the Steelers’ scheme, it also seems more important that the interior offensive line is stronger in the run game than the tackles.
So from that perspective, it does seem logical that Feiler at guard would be more advantageous than Feiler at right tackle. He is a very strong lineman and, in the past, has also shown that he is capable of pulling, so even when they are not running between the tackles, he can still help them get out to the perimeter.
Banner already has a season essentially functioning as a run-blocking extra tackle, so if he wins the right tackle job, that could be the best possible run-blocking offensive line the team can put together.
The Steelers ran the ball like crap when Feiler was at left guard last year against the Los Angeles Rams, and it wasn’t just the running backs. The yards before contact numbers were awful, not far above zero yards.
Does that fall entirely on Feiler’s shoulders? No. But it also speaks to the fact that putting him at left guard won’t magically make things better, either. And just because he is strong doesn’t mean he is best equipped to play in the booth rather than at the end.
Wisniewski may be stronger as a pass protector, but he would be better at setting protections and helping out Maurkice Pouncey and making sure the line is in communication, an underrated role of importance with Ramon Foster gone. And he is also a better player than either Okorafor or Banner.