While it would be fair to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 roster looks set at several positions, there are still a handful of starting roles yet to be decided and a number of backup up jobs remain up for grabs.
Over the coming weeks, BTSC editor Jeff Hartman and myself will take a look at some of the more obvious key names that will be fighting position battles throughout minicamp, OTAs and training camp later in the year, each taking a different side in the fight and providing our thoughts on why our pick will be the winner.
So far we have weighed in on the impending battles between quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph, runnings backs Jaylen Samuel and Benny Snell Jr. and wide receivers James Washington and Donte Moncrief. Today we move onto the wide receivers.
Matt Feiler vs. Chukwuma Okorafor
With four spots along the offensive line seemingly locked up heading into the regular season, the trade of right tackle Marcus Gilbert to the Arizona Cardinals earlier in the offseason has created an opportunity for Matt Feiler or Chukwuma Okorafor to claim a starting position.
And while the fight could yet become a three way battle if third year prospect Jerald Hawkins can remain healthy long enough to become a viable candidate for the job, it is hard to look past Feiler and Okorafor as the main contenders.
We just spent some time talking about this on a recent podcast (you can listen to them all below this article), and there was someone who chimed in and said, “What about Jerald Hawkins?” While Hawkins is on the roster, I just don’t foresee him being a legitimate candidate for the right tackle position.
In my opinion, Matt Feiler is the leader in the clubhouse, but that doesn’t mean Okorafor won’t give him a run for his money. There is a lot to like about “Chuks” game, but there is a reason the man they call “The Anchor”, Feiler, was the man who stood in for Marcus Gilbert during his injury plagued 2018 season.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Okorafor stuns the fan base and claims the top spot, but my money is on Feiler to win the job, and keep Okorafor and Hawkins at bay throughout the process. What Feiler lacks in athleticism, he knows the system and has the experience to get the job done.
Graded as the 14th best right tackle in the NFL last season by Pro Football Focus, Feiler was something of a revelation when pressed into action in place of the injured Gilbert. While maybe not quite to the standard of the man he replaced, the drop off in talent was not always apparent with Feiler in the lineup and his efforts throughout his debut season as a part time starter bode well for 2019.
A hard worker who taken a difficult path to earn playing time, Feiler has come a long way from the Division II player who spent the first three years of his professional football career on the practice squad to where he iw now. And having come this far in his journey, it would be foolish to count him out now with a starting role within reach.
On paper, Okorafor may be the more athletic option to use at right tackle when compared to his rival, but Feiler’s football experience versus a 21-year old prospect who has only been playing the sport since 2010 when his family emigrated to America from Nigeria figures to give him a head start in this battle. Feiler has also shown a bit more of the aggressive and punishing attitude the Steelers seems to like from their lineman, a trait Okafor often failed to show in college. If he hopes to beat out Feiler for the job this offseason, he will need to prove he has that quality in him.
Who wins this camp battle?
This poll is closed