Even coming off of an 8-8 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers actually have among the most stable starting lineups in the NFL. They lost only three starters from last season, two of which are likely to have in-house replacements, while the third starter…really isn’t even technically a starter, by position.
The latter would be the nose tackle role vacated by Javon Hargrave, and at least based on current evidence, this position should be manned by platoon, between Daniel McCullers and unnamed others, including potentially Tyson Alualu and rookie seventh-round pick Carlos Davis.
Mark Barron was a starter at inside linebacker this year, but the Steelers will simply revert to Vince Williams, who started the previous two seasons, while also potentially breaking in Ulysees Gilbert III, and/or adopting more dime snaps. The Baltimore Ravens played over 500 snaps in dime last season.
The only other starting job up for grabs is…well, it depends. Either left guard or right tackle. Matt Feiler will be the starter at one of those positions, and the other will be determined by a separate group of competitors.
Left guard, however, is the more interesting, since it would involve Feiler moving positions. And it’s the place where they lost Ramon Foster to retirement and B.J. Finney to free agency. They allowed this knowing that Feiler was a candidate to move inside, but they also bolstered the position by signing veteran Stefen Wisniewski and drafting Kevin Dotson.
Pro Football Focus also sees this as the battle to watch, though of course it’s the obvious choice. And if they had their choice for a result, they would simply plug in Wisniewski, of whom they are a fan, and leave Feiler where he is, and has done well. Ben Linsey writes:
There has been talk that the Steelers could be moving Feiler to left guard this season, allowing second-year tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner to compete for the starting right tackle job. It makes more sense to keep Feiler at right tackle — a position where he played well in 2019 — and plug the free agent acquisition Wisniewski in at left guard. Wisniewski has been a steady veteran presence for years, and he showed what he can bring to a team by stepping into the Chiefs’ offense during their Super Bowl run last season and delivering a 70.9 overall grade.
It is one option, but the preferable option, largely for its implications, would be for Feiler to move inside. For one thing, it allows Wisniewski to be the swing interior lineman without having to play musical chairs. For another, it means they have another starting-quality tackle on the roster.
Another hidden benefit of Feiler moving inside is that a left guard contract would be cheaper than a right tackle contract. Feiler will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021, and there’s no reason to expect he won’t be putting another quality season under his belt between now and then.