Steelers' Matt Feiler ready if called upon at tackle
The most recent time Matt Feiler started a game – any game, at any level, meaningful or not – at offensive tackle came Nov. 30, 2013.
It was in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship game. Feiler and Bloomsburg lost, 40-38, to rival West Chester and failed in an attempt to earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Since then? Well, there were nine late-game snaps at right tackle during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ win at Detroit last October.
Other than that…
“I honestly don’t know,” Feiler said, pondering his experience at tackle since college. “I don’t think (any).”
It could come in a few days on Monday Night Football against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It’s just something you have to be ready for at all times,” Feiler said after completing a practice in which he said he was taking reps in place of starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert. “If they call my number, they call my number. I have to be ready to play.”
Gilbert has not practiced yet this week because of a hamstring injury. Despite the presence of rookie Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner on the 53-man roster, the Steelers in practice thus far have been turning to Feiler instead of those two young pure tackles.
Feiler was a tackle at Bloomsburg but has spent most of the past three-plus years with the Steelers taking reps at guard. Over this past offseason, Feiler was being groomed to be the “swing lineman” capable of filling in at any of the line’s five positions .
“(Playing tackle) is like riding a bike almost,” Feiler said. “I played tackle in college and I have played mostly and mainly guard (in the pros), but it’s something I can always do.”
Feiler spent three seasons on the practice squads of the Houston Texans (2014) and Steelers (2015-16) before exhausting practice-squad eligibility and making the 53-man roster last season. Other than those nine October 2017 snaps at Ford Field after Chris Hubbard went down (Hubbard was replacing an injured Gilbert), Feiler’s only regular-season NFL experience was starting the meaningless 2017 finale against Cleveland at right guard.
Even during the preseason over the past five years, Feiler’s lone starts have been at right or left guard. He said he didn’t even take a snap at tackle during any of the preseason games last month.
Still, as coach Mike Tomlin says, “Next man up,” right?
“I take that to heart every week; you never know what’s going to happen,” Feiler said. “You just have to prepare the best you can and practice like you’re playing.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.