A lot of people have taken it as more or less of a foregone conclusion that the Pittsburgh Steelers intend to move Matt Feiler to left guard this season in replacing Ramon Foster, who retired earlier this offseason after 11 years in the NFL—spending the past six seasons as the team’s full-time starting left guard.
Feiler, a fourth-year player, has 27 career starts under his belt. His first came at right guard in the season finale in 2017 when David DeCastro was given a rest day. 25 of the remaining 26 came at right tackle over the past two seasons, including 15 in 2019. But one of his 16 starts last year was at left guard.
Pittsburgh has two young tackles in Chukwuma Okorafor, a 2018 third-round draft pick who does have two starts at right tackle, and Zach Banner, going into his fourth year and having logged over 200 snaps as a tackle-eligible a year ago.
It goes without saying that they would like for at least one of those two guys to show themselves to be worth of being a full-time starter, especially with Banner, Feiler, and starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva all becoming unrestricted free agents in 2021.
Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, however, is far from convinced of this. In fact, he’s very skeptical of the idea of the Steelers moving Feiler inside. “Feiler isn’t moving to guard unless there’s an emergency”, he told one fan who submitted a question about the formulation of the offensive line this season, saying that “it will be the same as last year with Stefen Wisniewski replacing Ramon Foster at left guard”.
He did note that rookie Kevin Dotson has an “outside shot of eventually working his way in there”.
Wisniewski, a veteran with over 100 starts under his belt, but who has been primarily a reserve in recent years for other teams, was signed in free agency in March after B.J. Finney signed with the Seattle Seahawks Finney was the team’s primary interior reserve lineman for the past four years with numerous starts at left guard.
“Tackles aren’t easy to find, and they aren’t going to shift one they like to a position that’s less important”, Kaboly wrote. “I can see Feiler getting an extension as their right tackle of the future much more than I can see him moving to guard”.
Except, of course, the Steelers already did shift his position to one ‘that’s less important’ last season for the game against the Los Angeles Rams, even though they easily could have just started Finney there, as they have a number of times over the previous four seasons…including the game right before the Rams game.
And the truth of the matter is that Feiler has been as much of a guard as he has a tackle for the bulk of his career. To this day, he has taken more snaps at guard than at tackle in the offseason and preseason. The Steelers have no doubt about his ability to play there. But they have two new faces at guard, and two faces they’ve seen for a couple of years now at tackle.