There are few storylines that Pittsburgh Steelers fans appreciate more than reading about players who find that their experiences with this franchise have been greater than that of the organizations for which they have previously played. And who can blame them? In a way, it serves as a reinforcement of the belief that they have made the ‘right choice’ in their fandom for that particular franchise.
The number of veterans from other teams who have had effusively positive things to say about the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise, however, can’t be missed. While some of this can be attributed to the bias that comes with finally reaching on-field success—and there have been some cases of players not enjoying their time here—the volume of case studies is a strong indicator that there really is something to the way in which they conduct their business.
Take Zach Banner, for example. He was a fourth-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He failed to make their 53-man roster before being signed by the Cleveland Browns during the season. In 2018, he spent time on the Carolina Panthers’ offseason roster before making what he hopes is his last stop, the Steelers signing him during training camp. He has been on the 53-man roster since, and is competing for a starting job this year.
“I am going to be real. I think if the Steelers were the ones I was with from the start, with the atmosphere, with what Coach Tomlin brings, it would be different”, he told Teresa Varley recently for the team’s website. When he first entered the league, he struggled with overeating and maintaining his conditioning, and has spoken about how he had lost the joy for the game that had sustained him.
“The coaches on the staff, the offensive line, the veterans, I know for a fact if I was drafted here, a lot of stuff would be avoided because of the leadership I have been around”, he added. “It has helped to shape me. It has been able to mold who I am in terms of being an enforcer on the offensive line and a guy that moves people routinely”.
In his case, he happens to be on a part of the roster with the greatest veteran presence. Even with the retirement of Ramon Foster, the longest-tenured player on the team short of Ben Roethlisberger, the offensive line group still includes Maurkice Pouncey, drafted in 2010, David DeCastro, in 2012, and Alejandro Villanueva, a soon-to-be 32-year-old who has been with the team since 2014. Matt Feiler is entering his fourth season, but his seventh since being drafted, and sixth with the Steelers.
This group was quick to bring him in to their inner circle, and while their initial message for him was to shut up and listen and learn, he heeded their advice, and he has blossomed since, growing comfortable in expressing his true personality as well.
In fact, he has become arguably one of the most popular players on the team, even developing a reputation beyond Pittsburgh, including for his outspokenness on social media about current events, such as his condemnation of anti-semitism.
Perhaps soon he will join the long line of players who waded through trying times with other organizations before landing a starting job that will fulfill him for the remainder of his professional career.