Steelers Likely To Move On From Alejandro Villanueva?

The Steelers lost long-time center Maurkice Pouncey to retirement today, and that might not be the only major change coming to their offensive line. Ed Bouchette of The Athletic writes that he believes the Steelers “are ready to move on from” left tackle Alejandro Villanueva

Villanueva is set to become a free agent in March, and Bouchette doesn’t think Pittsburgh will want to pay him. If they do let him walk, it’ll end a seven-year run with the franchise for Villanueva. He’s had an unlikely path to the NFL, graduating from Army in 2010 and then serving in Afghanistan before signing with the Eagles in 2014. He didn’t make the team but was signed to the Steelers’ practice squad shortly after, and ended up starting ten games in 2015.

After that he was a full-time and durable starter, starting all 16 games in each of the past five seasons. He’s never been elite at protecting Ben Roethlisberger‘s blindside, but has always been solid and respectable nonetheless. Already 32 because of his time overseas, it’ll be very interesting to see what the free agent market for him looks like.

There will be plenty of teams looking for tackle help, and he’ll almost certainly be starting for somebody next year. The offensive line was for many years a huge strength of these Steelers teams, but it had started to decline the past couple years as they got older and after highly regarded offensive line coach Mike Munchak left for Denver.

Things got even worse in 2020, and it looks like the unit could be headed for a complete revamp this offseason. Roethlisberger will be back for one more year, but change is on the way in Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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21 comments on “Steelers Likely To Move On From Alejandro Villanueva?

  1. arty!

    I think Pitt is in for a long season. Old in too many places, the young aren’t very good which is why the old kept playing, & relying on Ben is a problem. That O went to zero the last 5-6 weeks of this season.

  2. 2012orioles

    The running game was dead last last season and the line was a lot to do with it. I love Big Al and Pouncey, but they just couldn’t move anyone. New line coach, new OC, keep decastro and Dotson, resign chuks, draft a center or LT first round, and find a serviceable free agent for the other. Change was needed and there will clearly be change

  3. padam

    So the good thing is the defense is relatively young and solid, whereas the offense is going through a transition. If the O’line is getting an overhaul, I’d say the rest of the offense as well. Future QB, RBs, and another WR or two if Smith walks. I know the cap is tight, but re-orging the offense may be the way to go.

  4. MileHighFan

    You don’t overpay for average play – and although Villanueva has been a constant he is not among the best in the league.

  5. nentwigs

    Big Ben should pack it in too.
    Messing with the O Line players, and coaching will only mess up chemistry up front and will have Ben on the ground and throwing interceptions and incompletions.

  6. Mr Bob moose

    30 million over cap.Bud Depree free agent. Micah will hold out. Top 5 safety only making 2 million in final year of Rookie Deal.

    • TJECK109

      Minkah will be extended before season starts. They will make the moves needed but are projected to be 60mil under for 2022 which is when I’m sure the bulk of the contract would kick in

  7. markdavisbarber

    Wouldn’t it be something if the Bengals scooped Villanueva up to protect Burrow?

      • markdavisbarber

        Given the rookie wage scale that statement can be made for every non playing rookie on every team.

        Outside of the desegregation of a division rival, Villanueva is a solid upgrade to an oft injured o-line that allowed him to get injured on the 33rd sack of the year. Villanueva is a known commodity that will protect a franchise QB far better then a rookie learning his way.

  8. Cosmodogs

    The OL has gotten older, and less effective. They don’t have a #1, go to WR. RB’s are easy to find, but Ben may be washed up, and even if he isn’t totally, he is on his very last leg. You have to have a top tier QB to win in today’s NFL(with the rule changes over the past decade). They have major cap issues. Etc. Even if it somehow all finds a way to come together for 1 more year, they just are not as good as KC, or even Buffalo(minus them both losing their QB’s to injuries for a season or the playoffs). They have had a good, long competitive run, but it just seems to be time to rebuild, which, thankfully, for Steeler fans, has not had to happen in a long time.

  9. Ak185

    Well, there was a time when Villanueva was elite. He was better than the article gives him credit for. Not last season, of course, when he and Pittsburgh’s line as a whole deteriorated rather rapidly. They did have a lot of injuries, but the fact that it coincided with Munchak’s departure did not help in determining the ultimate cause.

    Right now, Pitt can’t afford to pay him for the level of play he’s given lately but they also are completely and totally dependent on an older and recently injured QB for their offense with zero replacement options to protect him. Villanueva fell off severely last year in particular, but the need to protect Big Ben with no clear heir apparent at LT (coupled with the Pouncey retirement) might force Pittsburgh’s hand.

    Ben’s already likely reducing his deal-the only chance, it seems, for them to have a chance would be to also have him personally persuade Villanueva to do the same. Otherwise, they’re rolling with a new tackle in Ben’s (possible) last season.

      • Ak185

        Alright, not elite, that’s fair. But he’s definitely been good. Last year the entire line was awful, and Villanueva earned the highest grades for the group per PFF (albeit a very paltry 60+, which is woeful). It’s a far cry from his 2017 form two seasons ago. He’s been good to above average, and with the rest of Pitt’s O-line looking for improvement, any putting off they can do of finding a new LT might be good.

  10. compassrose

    If he will move to RT or a G should make Wilson happy as a stop gap measure. Look for an OL or two in the draft. He can’t expect to make a ton either Seattle has cap space problems off their own. We need to sign Adams and KJ a couple more I think we need back. Get Watt and Villanueava from the FA market plus a few others and a good draft and the team should be OK.

  11. forwhomjoshbelltolled

    Steelers best path to winning would be pushing Ben into retirement, to draft a RB in the first or second, make do with a mediocre QB and double down on the defense. Sign the last Watt and add to the secondary and use the Tampa Bay formula to win.

    Tampa Bay 2002, that is.

  12. acquaformosa

    Not sure why people keep thinking the Bengals would sign an aging and average (albeit reliable) left tackle when they’re already staring at a once-in-a-generation left tackle this side of Anthony Munoz in the draft… with Penei Sewell from Oregon.

  13. Jimbobroy

    Say what you want about his skills but I would love to have 53 guys on my team with his character!

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