Few offensive linemen have been bounced around the way Matt Feiler has. Before he became the full-time starter at right tackle last season, he bounced around from place to even. Guard, tackle, emergency center in a handful of training camp practices. Even knowing he’d be the starting RT in 2019, he spent much of the summer playing other positions, allowing more reps for the likes of Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner. With Ramon Foster’s retirement, Feiler permanently kicked inside to left guard. Though LG isn’t brand new to him and he’s become accustomed to bouncing around, he’s still settling in at his new home.
“It took some time to get used to again,” he told reporters earlier today. “Going from the right side to the left side, just kind of have to switch your feet up and reverse everything that I’ve been doing for the past year and a half. It took a little bit of time but with every week I’m getting more and more comfortable with it. I think I started off a little slow, but like I said, it’s starting to get better and I’m feeling more confident there.”
Feiler has been a bit shaky in pass protection throughout the season. We’ve charged him for a team-high 2.5 sacks allowed. By no means is that a terrible number but the highest of any linemen on the team. But he’s been invaluable as a run blocker. Having him at left guard has given Pittsburgh the ability to pull either guard. In past years with Foster, 95% of the Steelers’ gap schemes came with RG David DeCastro pulling. Having Feiler has made the run game more versatile and balanced and they’ve had plenty of success with Feiler acting as lead blocker.
The reality is that it’s hard for linemen to be moved around. Us saying he “kicked to guard” makes it sound much simpler and easier than it sounds. Yes, Feiler had experience there, including a spot start against the Rams in 2019, but he hadn’t logged a lot of time at guard in his football career, including at college, where he was a tackle at Bloomsburg.
Unfortunately, his time as Steelers’ left guard looks short. A free agent after the season, he could be playing for someone else in 2021. Even if he re-signs with Pittsburgh, he could be kicking back out to RT. Kevin Dotson will likely push hard for the LG job next season. If Alejandro Villanueva leaves in free agency, Chukwuma Okorafor may flip to left tackle with Feiler heading back to tackle, just as he did in 2019.