Matt Feiler, a regular starter on the Steelers' offensive line over the past three years, has been placed on injured reserve after sustaining a pectoral injury during Sunday night's 26-15 loss to the Bills. Feiler cannot return to the active roster until the start of the postseason. The Steelers, despite losing their second straight game, cliched a playoff berth on Sunday after the Dolphins fell to the Chiefs, who supplanted Pittsburgh as the AFC's No. 1 seed with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
A seven-year veteran, Feiler started at left guard during Pittsburgh's first 14 games of the 2000 season. After suffering the injury during the first quarter of Sunday's game, Feiler was replaced by rookie Kevin Dotson, who left the game in the third quarter after sustaining a shoulder injury. J.C. Hassenauer, who started at center during Maurkice Pouncey's recent stint was on the reserve/COVID-19 list, finished Sunday's game at left guard.
A former undrafted rookie out of Bloomsburg University, Feiler has become a valuable piece of the Steelers' offensive line. Prior to sustaining his injury, Feiler had missed just four offensive snaps this season. He was a significant reason why Ben Roethlisberger was not sacked for five straight games, a streak that ended on Sunday night.
"Feiler is one of the most underrated players that I think I've ever been around," Steelers starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said of Feiler during his breakout 2018 season. "His strength, his demeanor, his personality; he's just a very good person and a great teammate. He's obviously very quiet; he maybe doesn't talk as much as some of the other players. Nevertheless, he's an unbelievable athlete. He comes from a smaller school, so gets sort of overlooked in other ways. But make no mistake, he's probably the strongest guy on the offensive line. He's definitely the best quiet professional playing in the NFL."
While they're not the 49ers, the Steelers have endured their share of injuries this season. In Week 1, starting right tackle Zach Banner sustained a torn ACL in the Steelers' 26-16 win over the Giants. In Week 6, they lost starting inside linebacker Devin Bush for the season after he tore his ACL in Pittsburgh's 38-7 win over the Browns. In Week 11, outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who was in the midst of a Pro Bowl season, tore his ACL near the end of Pittsburgh's 19-14 win over Baltimore.
Feiler is the Steelers' third offensive lineman to wind up on injured reserve. Stefen Wisniewski, one of the team's top free agent signings during the offseason, was placed on injured reserve after suffering a pectoral injury in Week 1. He spent several weeks on injured reserve before he was released prior to the Steelers' Week 9 win over the Cowboys.
Feiler's injury will be yet another obstacle to overcome for a Pittsburgh offense that is currently searching for answers. After scoring at least 24 points in each of their first 10 games, the Steelers' offense has scored 19, 17, and 15 points in their last three games, respectively. While dropped passes has been one of the main reasons for the offense's struggles, Pittsburgh's inability to run the ball has also played a factor in the Steelers' first two losses of the season. Respectively, the Steelers have rushed for 68, 21 and 47 yards over the last three games. Pittsburgh is currently 31st in the NFL in rushing after finishing 29th in that department last season and 31st in 2018.
Fortunately for the Steelers, their next opponent is the 2-9-1 Bengals, a team that is currently 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed and 27th in yards per carry average.