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.
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