Immediately after longtime Pittsburgh Steelers left guard Ramon Foster retired during the offseason, it was quite evident that Matt Feiler, the team’s starting right tackle the last two season, would probably be the player best suited to fill those big shows in 2020 via a position switch. Even so, the Steelers still decided to go out and sign veteran free agent interior offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski in March and especially after B.J. Finney, the team’s top interior backup offensive linemen the last several seasons, left via a free agency a few days earlier.
On Friday, Wisniewski met the media and early in his interview he was asked if he thought Feiler would likely be staying at right tackle prior to him deciding to sign with the Steelers and if his outlook as changed now that it’s evident he won’t be the team’s starting left guard.
“I wasn’t sure coming here,” Wisniewski said. “I’ve learned in my years in the NFL to be ready for anything. And it does look like at this point that I’ll probably be the backup swing guy at guard and center and Feiler has been playing a lot of left guard. And I’ll embrace that role.”
While Wisniewski is resigned to the fact that he’ll likely start the 2020 season as the team’s top backup interior swingman, he still feels that he can be a capable starter in the NFL if called upon.
“I do believe I’m capable of being a starter in this league and I think I’ve proved that,” Wisniewski said. “I started at left guard two out of the last three Super Bowl champions. So, obviously I’m capable of doing that, but I have been a backup as well and I’m the kind of guy I’m going to come to work every day with a great attitude, no matter what my role is. If I’m a backup, I’m going to be working every day so I’m ready to go if and when someone gets hurt and I’m in there.”
Wisniewski was also asked on Friday that should he ultimately get a chance to play in 2020 if in doing so it might evolve into him becoming a starter.
“I’m not sure,” Wisniewski said. “You’d have to ask the coaches that, but I’ve done that before in the past. Even last year in Kansas City, they signed me kind of mid-season and they kind of brought me in to just be a backup in case somebody got hurt and eventually I worked my way into the starting lineup and started the whole playoff run. So, I think that’s a possibility, but I don’t know for sure. That’s kind of on the coaches, their decision.”
Wisniewski also said on Friday that he wasn’t sure if he would have been able to beat out Feiler for the starting left guard spot had the offseason not been truncated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ll never know for sure,” Wisniewski said. “Definitely possible. And I think coaches here and everywhere have had to make some tough decisions and had to make them more quickly than they usually would because of this circumstance, because of not having OTAs, because of having a very limited training camp. And I understand that, and I get that. And I’m not bitter, I don’t hold any grudges or anything. They’re doing what’s best for the team and I embrace that. We’ve got a heck of a football team and whatever the coaches think can help us win, I’m in favor of that.”
While Wisniewski has essentially been the next man up at all three interior offensive line positions since the start of training camp, he’s seen plenty of first-team reps at both center and right guard due to starters Maurkice Pouncey (personal) and David DeCastro (minor injury) both missing practice time the last few weeks. Wisniewski commented Friday on getting those extra first-team reps and what they’ve meant to him.
“It’s definitely been a positive,” Wisniewski said. “With Dave being out and with Pouncey missing some time, I’ve gotten a lot of reps with the first team. And that was good for me to get some reps in there with the ones and work with the first team guys and work with Ben and just kind of see how those guys work. And that’s been a big blessing I think, and it’s helped me feel more comfortable and more ready to go.”
While Feiler is making a big move this offseason from right tackle to left guard, Wisniewski said on Friday that he hasn’t needed to give his new teammate much advice when it comes to him kicking inside and switching sides.
“No, Matt [Feiler] looks good,” Wisniewski said. “I haven’t had to tell Matt much. I mean, I’ve talked to him a little bit here and there. Yu know, he’s transitioning from tackle to guard so maybe told him a few things. But most of my teaching has been to some of the younger guys.”
Speaking of teaching the younger guys, Wisniewski made it clear more than once on Friday that that’s one of the many things he’s doing during training camp to help ensure the offensive line is as good as it can possibly be in 2020.
“And I’ll do the best I can to teach young guys, help game plan, scheme things up,” Wisniewski said. “I’ve been in a lot of good offenses; I know how protections work. I know how run game schemes work. And I’ll to help with schemes, help coach and be ready to go whenever I’m called on.”