Steelers OL Matt Feiler hopes to become center of attention
With Steelers training camp opening this week, the Trib is spotlighting a handful of the 90 attendees who might not be big names but who are fighting for a roster spot and potentially could make an impact on the 2018 team. This is the fifth in that series that will run leading into reporting day at St. Vincent College on Wednesday.
After three years on the periphery of the Steelers’ roster, Matt Feiler is finally working to become the center of attention.
A guard and tackle over his NFL training-camp and practice-squad career to this point, Feiler confirmed he was working extensively at center during the Steelers’ spring practices.
“I was told after this past season to start taking center reps, snapping to whoever is around,” Feiler said after a minicamp session last month. “So I just kind of took that and ran with it. It’s better for me (in regards to career longevity) – and I want to help this team out, too.”
The Steelers are in need of a No. 3 center (after starter Maurkice Pouncey and top interior backup B.J. Finney) following the departure of utility offensive lineman Chris Hubbard via free agency.
The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Feiler is adding center to his proverbial toolbox in what will be his fifth NFL training camp. The native of the Lancaster area was signed out of Division II Bloomsburg as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans in 2014. He spent that season on their practice squad and stuck with the Texans until the final cuts of their 2015 camp.
He jumped to the Steelers’ practice squad Sept, 5, 2015 and spent all of the ensuring two seasons there (aside from a one-week activation to the 53-man roster in 2016). Exhausted of practice-squad eligibility last summer , Feiler stuck on the Steelers’ active roster after camp broke.
He stayed there all season, was activated for seven games, appeared in five and started one (the regular-season finale against Cleveland). Feiler saw action at both tackle and guard, and he was re-signed in January .
This summer, he frequently remained out on the practice field after the end of an organized team activity or minicamp session to work on snapping the ball, often to rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph.
“You’re the guy who gets the play started, so it’s important for me to get the ball back to the quarterback,” Feiler said. “That’s my emphasis right now, doing that and learning all the right points and what everybody’s got. With everything, you’ve got to be on your toes a lot faster.”
The Steelers have had remarkable consistency along their starting offensive line, and Finney is assured one of what will be, at most, 3-4 reserve spots. With the season-ending injury to Jerald Hawkins, rookie third-round pick Chuks Okorafor and Feiler have inside tracks to holding down two of those spots.
At 26 and five regular-season games over his first four years in the NFL, Feiler is eager to do more.
“It’s actually gone by pretty quickly; it doesn’t feel like it’s been five years,” Feiler said.
“I’m just happy with how things have played out so far, and I am looking forward to more in the future. I have been in the playbook for four years now, so just starting to learn the smaller things.”
Like a new position.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.