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By: Jonathan Clark, @jonclark_7

SteelerNation.com

Offensive line is an area that the Pittsburgh Steelers do not typically have a lot of questions on going into each season. While adding depth to each position is something all teams do during the off-season, our starting five typically has stayed the same. We have seen some unfamiliar faces be thrown into the mix simply because of injuries or suspensions that took place during the season, but we have been fortunate enough to be able to keep 4/5 of the offensive line together for the majority of their careers. 

That 4/5 includes 8-time Pro Bowl and 2-time All-Pro center, Maurkice Pouncey, 5-time Pro Bowl and 2-time All Pro guard David DeCastro, 2-time Pro Bowl tackle Alejandro Villanueva, and recently retired guard who spent his entire 11-year NFL career with the Steelers, Ramon Foster. Villanueva and Foster had been doing a great job protecting Ben Roethlisberger‘s blindside for as long as they did together, and Pouncey and DeCastro have kind of been a two-man wrecking crew in the middle of that offensive line for years. The only real question that has floated around my mind regarding the offensive line has been at right tackle. 

In 2011, with the 63rd pick in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft, Pittsburgh selected RT Marcus Gilbert in hopes of taking over former RT Flozell Adams‘ spot going into the upcoming season. It seemed like, at the time, the Steelers had big plans for him. Standing at 6’6″, 330 pounds, Gilbert was considered the Steelers starting RT from the day he walked in the door in 2011. Throughout his tenure, being able to stay healthy was not one of his strong suits. In 7 seasons in the black and gold, Gilbert started in 87 of 88 games played and was productive while on the field. It was missing a total of 11 games in 2012, 9 games in 2017 and 11 games in 2018 due to injury that got him traded to the Arizona Cardinals in 2019. Leaving the Steelers with a hole on the right side to fill, on an experienced and well decorated offensive line.

Matt Feiler is now the guy at that right tackle position, who beat out Jerald Hawkins, Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner for the starting spot during training camp of the 2019 season. While he might be an unfamiliar face in most NFL fans worlds, it was center Maurkice Pouncey who came to the support of Fieler taking the RT spot over by saying that Feiler has earned the nickname “anchor” simply because Pouncey had referred to Feiler’s preseason tape as some of the best he has ever seen. High praise from a highly decorated offensive lineman, am I right?

Fieler was the odd man out in 2019 and while he was fortunate enough to be on the field, he was the only one of the lineman to not have played with each other in prior NFL games before, while all four of his counterparts all had years of experience under their belts together. Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro and Villanueva had all been protecting Roethlisberger together since 2015, building a brotherhood that Feiler was just trying to find his place in. While lineman’s stats don’t usually jump out at you, he did his best to let his play do the talking last year and did so by earning a $387,000 performance based bonus for previous play throughout the entire 2019 season — which makes it hard to argue that Feiler was not an upgrade at the RT position. 

While we do not know what the future holds, we are usually told to go off of what we saw in the previous season, but last season just seems abnormal to me, doesn’t it? There were many underlying factors as to why the Steelers season went as it did, and one main focus was on how the offensive line did not seem to be as effective as it was in previous years. It is easy to point out the obvious and say that the decrease in effectiveness must be due to the change at RT, but in my opinion, most of this relates to the fact that we lost OL Coach Mike Munchak to the Denver Broncos following the 2018 season. Munchak was highly respected as a coach and a player in the NFL and was the man responsible for this dominant Steelers o-line of previous years, and while injuries and suspensions didn’t help, his presence was certainly missed in 2019.

As the keys to the offensive line were given to Munchak’s predecessor Shaun Sarrett, All of Steeler Nation will have eyes on the offensive line, seeing if they can return to their old form. With one season already under his belt, I expect Feiler to have a big year on a top ranked offensive line in 2020, in hopes that he will be able to show the organization that he can be the right tackle of the future.

Let us know what you think of the current offensive lineman situation in the ‘Burgh! Comment below!

#SteelerNation

I am a 24 year old die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan from upstate NY. I can safely say that I have not missed a single Steelers game over the last 16 years. Always thankful to my dad for raising me a fan of the black & gold. Love writing about anything Steelers related, trying to get the breaking news to the best fans in the NFL! Follow me on twitter @JonClark_7 & HERE WE GO!

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. farhaan alam

    June 6, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    Foster was finished lat year so having a younger LG in Docson will help the run game drastically.

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