The Pittsburgh Steelers realized they were going to need to move on from Ramon Foster after the 2019 season concluded. The writing was on the wall, and it was Foster who ultimately chose to step away from the game than suiting up for another NFL franchise.
Add in the departure of B.J. Finney to the Seattle Seahawks and what was left was a gaping hole along the offensive line which needed filled, and the Steelers had options. They could try and draft a guard with their top draft selection, pick up someone in free agency, or move Matt Feiler to guard and let a battle at right tackle rage on.
The Steelers did the latter two of the above scenario.
In free agency the Steelers added two-time Super Bowl champion Stefen Wisniewski to their roster. Wisniewski has the position flexibility to play all three interior line positions, and could be a starter if called upon.
By now you know Mike Tomlin and company have decided to move Feiler to guard, and that seems to remain their main direction entering the 2020 regular season. When Wisniewski met with media via Zoom call on Friday, he admitted right now he is looking at a role which is strictly as a backup for Feiler, David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey.
This per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com:
Pittsburgh native @stefenwiz61 via zoom said he will be the backup swing guy at both guard and center. He said he is capable of being a starter, that he has proven that. He said he will come to work with a great attitude and be ready if someone gets hurt along the way.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 28, 2020
He went on to make it crystal clear what his new role will be with his hometown team, the Steelers. This per Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports:
Stefen Wisniewski: "At this point, it looks like I'll be the backup at center and guard." #Steelers #dkps— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 28, 2020
One of the aspects of this unique 2020 season which truly hurt Wisniewski’s chances were the lack of offseason workouts and preseason games. Having to stay away from the facility stripped him of an opportunity to get into the building and learn from the coaches and players who developed the system.
Instead, he was left learning virtually and trying to get acclimated away from the facility. Nonetheless, due to players like DeCastro watching a lot of practices early in training camp, and Pouncey missing to tend to family matters, Wisniewski has been able to get first team reps. And this has been a huge help for him and his development.
Stefen Wisniewski said he has been able to get some first team reps with some guys missing time and that has been a huge help for him.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 28, 2020
The Steelers still have options along the line. If Wisnewski impresses Shaun Sarrett, the offensive line coach, and the rest of the staff that he can be a competent starter at left guard, it would allow them to move Feiler to right tackle if either Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor are not up to the standard at the position.
Options are a good thing, but you can’t ignore what Wisniewski has done in the league, especially the last few seasons.
Joining the Kansas City Chiefs after Week 5 in 2019, Wisniewski started more games in the playoffs than he did in the regular season. While seeing a limited number of snaps in 9 of the 11 regular-season games, it wasn’t until until the final two weeks of the season when Wisniewski became the starter and played every offensive snap in all three postseason games.
In 2018, Wisniewski started the first four and final three games for the Philadelphia Eagles. During their 2017 Super Bowl season, Wisniewski started 11 games and all three in the postseason. The last time Wisniewski started 16 games in a season was in 2015 which was his last season in Jacksonville.
All that experience makes for one great backup, but it also shows he is more than capable of starting if called upon. It just doesn’t seem he will be getting that call right away.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.