With our series breaking down each position on the roster completed, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2020 season.
This is not a conventional offseason, of course, for obvious reasons, which is likely to play a role in many of these battles, some in ways that we might not foresee. Generally speaking, it should favor players who have greater experience, but there’s a reason these questions are left unanswered until we get on the field.
Position: Left Guard
Up for Grabs: Starting Job
In the Mix: Matt Feiler, Stefen Wisniewski, Kevin Dotson
As we discussed yesterday, the starting job battles for right tackle and left guard are intertwined. If neither Zach Banner nor Chukwuma Okorafor are up to snuff to play right tackle, when Matt Feiler will have to, and that would leave the left guard job in the hands of Stefen Wisniewski, who though in his first season with the team, has over 100 starts under his belt.
Or, less likely, in the hands of rookie Kevin Dotson.
The position has become open for the first time in many years, and is changing hands for the first time since the end of the 2012 season, the first time that Ramon Foster started there and never left. When David DeCastro was finally healthy enough to play as a rookie, he started the final three games at right guard. By that time, Willie Colon, who was moved from right tackle to left guard, suffered an injury and was put on injured reserve.
Foster, who started the first 13 games of that season at right guard, moved over to left guard, and has started every game there since, outside of one or two per year due to injury. He retired this offseason, and his top backup, B.J. Finney, left in free agency, so here we are.
Feiler has 27 career starts, 25 at right tackle. He started at right guard once in 2017, and at left guard once, last season, in a game in which Foster was injured. But he has played extensively at guard during the preseason throughout his career, which includes three seasons of practice squad service, so he’s far from starting over.
The Steelers are comfortable with the idea of him starting inside, and in fact Mike Tomlin said that he would take the first snaps there at training camp. But the opportunity to bring in Wisniewski as a veteran fallback option was too good to pass up.
He is capable of starting, and according to himself, was told that he will be given the opportunity to compete for the starting job. He may well just win it outright. He is by far the most experienced at the position on the roster, and has four times as many starts as Feiler.
As for Dotson, it’s nice to think about what he could potentially do in the future, but realistically, it’s hard to see him having much of a chance this Summer. Training camp will be the first time he’s on an NFL field, and who knows how much they will even be able to do in pads? It would be a real baptism by fire if he were to start in the opener.