Sometimes the biggest move that a team can make in free agency in terms of improving their chances of winning overall is not making the big splash in free agency, but rather making quieter moves that look to shore up areas of weakness. They might not get as much attention, but improving a weakness and certainly have a greater net benefit than improving a strength.
For Pro Football Focus, they believe that Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Matt Feiler could represent such a move. Having started 40 of 46 games over the course of his four-year career, primarily at right tackle and left guard, he is seen as somebody who can shore up a weak link in a team’s offensive line that has struggled for years to fill that gap. Sam Monson writes:
Many offensive lines across the league are not in great shape, and even teams that are in a good spot with their starting fives have real problems if they’re ever forced to use a bench player. Pass protection is about the weakest link, not how strong the best players are, so there is huge value in having a viable baseline at every position. Teams that don’t have one should always be in the market for a player who could change that.
Matt Feiler has started for the Steelers at two different spots along their offensive line over the past two and a half years, and he’s been good at right tackle and above average at left guard. He is just 28 years old, and while he can have bad games and will likely never become an All-Pro, he has never earned an overall PFF grade worse than above average in the NFL. That represents a massive upgrade for some teams that haven’t been able to find even an average player at certain spots on their line for years.
Feiler is a poster child for a value free agent signing that could prove to be one of the best pieces of business done this offseason.
Originally an undrafted free agent, Feiler actually spent his first three years in the NFL toiling away on practices squads, first with the Houston Texans in 2014, before joining the Steelers in 2015. He first made the 53-man roster in 2017, originally spending most of his time inside, but due to injuries, was asked to play outside.
He started 10 games at right tackle in 2018, then 15 (plus one at left guard) the following year before the team moved him to left guard this past season in order to fill the shoes of Ramon Foster, who had retired.
Now hitting unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career, Feiler is certainly capable of filling a hole in somebody’s offensive line. It could still wind up being the Steelers’ own line, but that will depend upon the market, and possibly based on whom they hire as offensive line coach.