In theory, or at least in literal practice, Matt Feiler has always been a versatile offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his early years with the franchise, even before he ever landed a spot on the 53-man roster, he would spend more time lining up at guard in the offseason than he would at tackle. He has even taken snaps at center in training camp and in preseason games.
But the reality is that, before this season, Feiler made 27 professional starts along the offensive line, and 25 of them were at right tackle. He is about to play his 12 career game starting at one of the guard spots, and 10 of those have come this season. The other two times were sort of on the fly.
While it is feasible to study both guard and tackle, mastering just one position is difficult enough, and Feiler has been in the process since the offseason of fully dedicating himself to the guard position, a process that continues to be ongoing, he acknowledged on Wednesday.
During his media availability, he was asked about going from playing tackle to moving to guard where pulling is a much more important aspect of his job, and how that transition has been going. “I’m starting to get the hang of it”, he admitted about adjusting to the pulling element, via video provided by the team’s media department.
“It’s just tough, because each defender plays it differently, and you kind of just got to read on the run almost”, he added. “Sometimes I might get caught a little bit guessing, or I’ll just kind of fog it up for the running back, but it’s been working for us in the past, and I continue to think that it will keep working itself out”.
Pulling guards are a staple feature of the Steelers’ run offense. Truth be told, Feiler’s performance in this department has been hit or miss this season. Even David DeCastro’s has not been consistently at the level it needs to be, which is one of the reasons the run game has struggled over the past month.
Complicating matters for Feiler is the simple fact that the offseason was a mess. There were no practices all Spring. The first workouts came when training camp opened, and then there were no preseason games to get in those valuable reps, exhibition games in which the offensive line typically sees more snaps than other starters.
It is now game 10 of the season. By now he will have gained some level of comfort in all aspects of the position, but when it’s something that you haven’t done extensively at this level, you still find that there are new things to learn for quite a while.