PITTSBURGH — The Steelers played without left guard Ramon Foster on Sunday, as the veteran lineman remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
But they did not take their usual step of replacing an injured interior lineman with capable veteran backup B.J. Finney, as they have multiple times over the last few seasons.
Instead, they moved right tackle Matt Feiler — who has played guard in the past — to left guard and promoted backup tackle Chuks Okorafor to starting right tackle for the game.
It’s a series of moves that was specifically made to counter the potent pass rush of the Los Angeles Rams.
“What we did last week was appropriate because of who we had available to us and what we were facing, particularly with Aaron Donald and his pass rushing abilities on the interior,” head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. “We thought it was just best to get three tackle-like guys on the field in an effort to get our very best pass rushers.”
Tomlin said that mix of personnel could change depending on the needs of the particular matchup and also that he expects Foster to return this Thursday against the Cleveland Browns.
Okorafor had three NFL starts under his belt before getting called in against the Rams, and Tomlin said he has faith in his abilities to perform when called upon.
“Chuks is fully capable, and I think that’s the thing that you point to, a thing that we always repeat to our guys is that we’re going to need every man in that room, and every man is capable,” Tomlin said. “Chuks’ usage and expansion of roles, in terms of being an inactive type and going to a guy that’s starts at right tackle was just an example of that, but that’s nothing new. He did that a year ago, I think at Denver against Von Miller and company. So, he’s a guy that doesn’t fear those matchups. A guy that’s got some talent. A guy that’s evolving as a player, and opportunities like that help that evolution.”
Typically, the Steelers top backup at tackle has also served as a sixth offensive lineman in jumbo sets, but this year, that role has belonged to the Steelers’ other backup tackle Zach Banner.
He’s excelled in that role. Banner played 21 snaps as an eligible receiver on Sunday and was even introduced as part of the starting lineup. That’s why Okorafor was tabbed with filling in for Feiler at tackle.
“Banner has been occupying a role and doing a really solid job at that, so why disrupt that?” Tomlin said.
All things considered, it seems that the Steelers have a significant amount of usable depth on their offensive line with all eight players getting significant playing time through the season’s first nine games.