Will Feiler slide back into his same starting position, or his rookie Kevin Dotson and the spot?
The Steelers received some excellent news this week as two players began the process of returning from the NFL‘s Reserve/Injured List. Both linebacker Robert Spillane and offensive lineman Matt Feiler practiced on Wednesday which started the 21-day clock for the players to be activated to the 53-man roster. While the Steelers have no obligation to activate either player before Sunday night’s Wild Card natchup with the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field, if the players are healthy and can contribute it would be in the Steelers best interest to have as many quality players available as possible.
When it comes to Matt Feiler and the Steelers offensive line, is it just as simple as inserting him back in at the left guard position where he started the first 13 games of the 2020 season? Normally teams would be anxious to get back a player who had started 34 consecutive games before their injury. But with the quality play of rookie Kevin Dotson, should the Steelers instantly insert Feiler back into the same position?
Before getting into the Steelers’ options, let’s look at the limited data on judging offensive lineman. According to grades by Pro Football Focus, the highest rated offensive lineman for the Steelers is left tackle Alejandro Villanueva with a total score of 74.6 for the season. The next highest score of any player who is started a game for the Steelers in 2020 is Dotson at 66.2 with a pass blocking grade of 87.2 which places him top among all guards in the NFL. On the season, Matt Feiler is close behind with a 65.0 score followed by Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro at 64.1 on the year. Rounding out the options on the offensive line are Maurkice Pouncey with a score of 60.4 and Chuks Okorafor with 57.5 in 2020.
Now that we have an idea of where these players fall according to PFF, here are several options for Steelers have when it comes to Feiler’s return.
Do not activate him to the 53-man roster
There is nothing that says the Steelers have to activate Feiler if he is ready. If they feel that they’re starting to click a little bit with the lineup they have, the Steelers could simply just have Feiler stay on the reserve list and see how their Wild Card game plays out.
Insert him back into his starting left guard position
Although Steelers Nation seems to be convinced Kevin Dotson is the answer on the Steelers offensive line, it’s unclear if the organization believes this statement at this time. It is quite likely that Steelers could insert Feiler right back into his starting position at left guard and keep Dotson on the sidelines.
Keep him in a reserve role
Whether Feiler is 100% or not, the Steelers could choose to have him available in a reserve role but not go back to being the starter. If they do this, Feiler would likely be the backup at four positions playing anywhere other than center.
Keep Dotson at guard and start Feiler at a different position
What a lot of Steelers’ fans would love to see is Matt Feiler go back to right tackle where he started 15 games in 2019. In doing so, Feiler goes back to a position where he played as the Steelers top-ranked offensive lineman in 2019 according to PFF and allows the Steelers to keep Dotson on the field. In doing so, it would be Chuks Okorafor going to a reserve role which he has not done since Week 1.
So there are the most likely options I can think of when it comes to what the Steelers could do with Matt Feiler. What do you think? Which of these options would be best for the Steelers in getting the most out of their offensive line? Make sure you vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.