Steelers’ Matt Feiler looks ahead after establishing himself in 2018
Matt Feiler entered his fifth NFL training camp last year with all of five regular-season games and 75 offensive snaps to his credit.
So it had to be gratifying to Feiler that in 2018 for the Pittsburgh Steelers he proved he was a viable, NFL starting-caliber player.
“It’s nice to see the hard work pay off,” Feiler said at the end of the season. “But there’s still a lot more work ahead.”
Feiler started 10 games for the Steelers in 2018 at right tackle. The 6-foot-6, 330-pound native of the Lancaster area who played Division II football at Bloomsburg previously practiced mostly at guard as a practice-squad player for the Houston Texans (2014) and Steelers (2015-16, with ‘17 mostly spent as a Sunday inactive).
Yet when Marcus Gilbert suffered what became a season-ending knee injury in October and with the Steelers short at tackle because of an injury to Jerald Hawkins and a desire to bring along 21-year-old rookie Chuks Okorafor slowly, Feiler became the man at right tackle.
“It is kind of crazy to think about,” Feiler said of how far his career came during 2018, “but I haven’t spent much time looking back at it. I was in camp to just prepare for whatever, and that’s what I did.”
By all indications, Feiler performed well. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 14th-best right tackle in the NFL, giving him an overall “above-average” grade as well as an “above-average” designation in pass blocking and an “average” mark in run blocking.
But that won’t assure him any role in 2019. Gilbert could return to health and regain his starting job (though neither of those is a guarantee, and the Steelers might elect to cut him). Hawkins also figures to be healthy, and Okorafor would seem be in line for an increased role.
And that doesn’t even address possible competition from returning tackle Zach Banner or any possible draft picks.
In other words, while Feiler proved himself capable, he still might be an odd man out next season.
“I don’t really know at this point,” Feiler said, chuckling.
Feiler is an exclusive-rights free agent (effectively, the Steelers own his rights and can set his salary on their terms) after making $555,000 last season. He would be a restricted free agent next season and set to enter unrestricted free agency in 2021. He turns 27 in July.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .