In a report by SteelCityInsider, the Steelers have decided on their current starting offensive line months before the team is scheduled to begin training camp. Of course, this initial placement of players on paper means absolutely nothing as their play throughout preseason games and practices will ultimately shape who takes the field for the black and gold. But looking at this lineup, it brings up some questions about the curious case of Matt Feiler.
According to SteelCityInsider, the The Steelers currently have their depth chart with Alejandro Villanueva left tackle, Matt Feiler at left guard, Maurkice Pouncey at center, David DeCastro at right guard, and Chukwuma Okorafor as the Steelers’ right tackle. The biggest surprise to this list by many is the fact that the Steelers have four returning offensive linemen, but only three in the positions they played in 2019.
When it comes to Matt Feiler, the question is at what position he would be better suited? Is he a tackle, or is he a guard? Just because Feiler played tackle in 2019 and was the highest-rated offensive lineman on the team does not necessarily mean it is his best position. Many feel Feiler is better suited for guard as that is the position he typically played until having to fill-in during the 2018 season for an injured Marcus Gilbert. Filer was still labeled as a guard at the time, but with the Steelers looking to put their best linemen on the field, Feiler filled in quite nicely. So if Feiler were to be moved to guard, he would actually be moved back to guard.
Entering the 2019 preseason, it was believed Matt Feiler and Chuks Okorafor would be in a competition for the starting right tackle position. With Feiler emerging early as the obvious choice, he rarely played tackle in the preseason as the Steelers needed more depth at guard in order to get through their contests. In Week 10 against the Los Angeles Rams, Feiler moved to the left guard position for an injured Ramon Foster as the Steelers felt he was a better player to go up against All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
So where is Feiler better suited to play? Would he serve the Steelers better at guard or tackle? Frankly, it is his versatility which will help the Steelers more than anything. If the goal is to get the best five offensive linemen on the field, Matt Feiler gives the team the flexibility to do exactly that.
Ignoring any potential draft choice the Steelers could make for 2020, the biggest competition on the offensive line will probably be between two players who don’t even play the same position: Chuks Okorafor and Stefen Wisniewski. Of course Zach Banner is still in the mix as well, but the fact that he is mainly a run specialist and possibly better suited at left tackle then right would give Okorafor for a slight advantage. After all, when Feiler moved to guard against the Rams, it was Chuks who played every snap at right tackle. But in getting the best five players on to the field, it will come down to whether or not the Steelers feel more confident in with Wisniewski at guard or Okorafor at tackle. Which ever one emerges, look for Feiler to fill the other position even though he is the stronger option at either place.
Personally, I am hopeful the Steelers will be starting a player who they feel they can’t keep off the field rather than whoever they could cover for the best. If this is the case, I believe Wisniewski has a better chance of earning the position.
The biggest reason I have confidence in Wisniewski earning the job is because of how he finished last season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Coming in late in the season for an injured Andrew Wylie, Wisniewski held the starting position through the Super Bowl even when Wylie was able to return. It was purely a situation where his play had him deserve to stay on the field. It would be a great repeat in 2020 if this is the case for the Steelers.
Whether or not Matt Feiler makes the move to guard is not going to change his need to know the position. Even if he stays a tackle, Feiler would most likely be the first option should one of the Steelers guards go down to injury. So, much like both 2018 and 2019, Feiler better be ready to fill-in just about anywhere on the offensive line.
Where do you think Matt Feiler should play in 2020? Make sure you answer the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Where should Matt Feiler play in 2020?
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Tackle. He played great there last year.
Guard. Let him return to his natural position.
Either. Figure out who else is better at either position since Feiler can play both.