Alejandro Villanueva

Steelers Working To Extend Alejandro Villanueva

Given that it ranked second in adjusted line yards and third in adjusted sack rate, the Steelers’ offensive line finished the 2016 season as one of the league’s best units, and the club now wants to extend a key member of that front five. Pittsburgh is interested in hammering out an long-term deal with left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, reports Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.Alejandro Villanueva (Vertical)

[RELATED: Steelers In Talks With Antonio Brown]

Villanueva, is an exclusive right free agent, meaning he’s not able sign with any other clubs as long as the Steelers tender him an offer. Pittsburgh has been the most active thus far in the offseason in terms of re-signing its exclusive rights free agents, and the team clearly wouldn’t complain about retaining Villanueva at a one-year cost of $540K. Even after the 2017 campaign, Villanueva would only qualify as a restricted free agent, again meaning the Steelers could keep him around on the cheap.

A long-term deal, however, would not only lock up Villanueva for the foreseeable future, but reward the second-year pro for his excellent production. A former Army infantrymen, Villanueva graded as the league’s No. 24 offensive tackle in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus, and has now started 26 games in two seasons with the Steelers.

As Bouchette notes, the top-10 highest-paid tackles in the league earn more than $10MM annually, but a few factors should keep Villanueva from reaching that plateau. Not only is he not quite at the elite level that would require such a salary, but he’s under team control for the next two seasons, a fact that will artificially depress his value.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Notes: Bryant, Green, Allen, Draft

The Steelers never thought about releasing wide receiver Martavis Bryant, even as he’s set to miss the 2016 as a result of a yearlong suspension, general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters, including Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune, at a press conference today. Bryant’s absence also won’t overly affect the club’s draft plans, per Colbert, who says Pittsburgh won’t feel the need to draft a replacement pass-catcher.

Let’s dive into the other highlights from Colbert’s presser…

  • The Steelers would not have pursued free agent tight Ladarius Green had Heath Miller not retired, according to Colbert, and Kaboly adds (via Twitter) that the team targeted offensive free agents because of the deep defensive draft class. Pittsburgh will “hammer” the defensive side of the ball in the draft, per Colbert.
  • Cornerback, specifically, is one area that the Steelers could address through the draft. “We can’t say we’ll take a cornerback first, second or third,” Colbert said, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But there are enough that we should be able to get one.” Pittsburgh will visit with Houston’s William Jackson III this week, tweets Dulac.
  • One reason the Steelers will target corners is the underwhelming play of Cortez Allen, who is presumably on the roster bubble — Colbert says the club is still trying to ascertain where Allen is health-wise, per Dulac (Twitter link). Head coach Mike Tomlin said last month that he’s not convinced Allen is an impact player.
  • Free agent signee Ryan Harris will battle with incumbent Alejandro Villanueva to act as the Steelers’ starting left tackle, writes Kaboly.
  • The Steelers might not be done in free agency, and could still add another player via the open market, per Kaboly.

Steelers Sign Seven To Futures Contracts

Like the Bengals and the Cardinals, the Steelers didn’t waste any time following their elimination from the playoffs to move forward on 2015 business, confirming today that they’ve signed seven practice squad players to reserve/futures contracts for 2015. Here’s the list of players locked up by Pittsburgh so far, via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link):

The Steelers finished the season with a full 10-man practice squad, but so far wide receiver Tim Benford, running back LaDarius Perkins, and offensive lineman Ronald Patrick remain unsigned.

Sunday Transactions: AFC North

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC North teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions are noted below.

Additionally, as of 11:00am CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. For the 2014 and 2015 seasons, changes were made to practice squad rules that allow teams to carry eight players instead of 10, and the eligibility requirements for those extra two spots were also loosened. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s AFC North transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day:

Baltimore Ravens:

Cincinnati Bengals:

Cleveland Browns:

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Steelers Notes: Villanueva, Jones, Moore

Will the Steelers snap out of their funk in 2014? Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review looks at it from both sides. The Steelers have done well in their last two drafts and they’ve gotten younger in an effort to catch up to the rest of the league. Conversely, Robinson is worried about the receiving core beyond Antonio Brown. Here’s more on the Steelers..

  • The Steelers worked out defensive end Alejandro Villanueva earlier today, a source tells Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The former U.S. Army Ranger was recently waived by the Eagles.
  • Steelers quarterback Landry Jones will be playing to secure a roster spot when Pittsburgh takes the field on Thursday night, writes Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Coach Mike Tomlin says he needs to see consistent play out of Jones before deciding on whether the team will carry a third quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger and Bruce Gradkowski. On the other sideline, Joe Webb will be starting for the Panthers. His job is believed to be more secure, however.
  • The Steelers have lots of new faces at wide receiver that Roethlisberger will have to get used to, writes Ralph Paulk Jr. of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Second-year receiver Markus Wheaton will be lined up opposite incumbent star Brown while free agent signees Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey, and rookie Martavis Bryant will be there in support.

Eagles Cut 14

The Eagles have announced their first wave of roster cuts:

    • Blake Annen, TE
    • Michael Bamiro, OL
    • Karim Barton, OL
    • Kadron Boone, WR
    • B.J. Cunningham, WR
    • Donald Hawkins, OL
    • Emil Igwenagu, TE
    • Jake Knott, LB
    • Joe Kruger, DE
    • Daytawion Lowe, S
    • Frances Mays, DE
    • Davon Morgan, S
    • Carey Spear, K
    • Alejandro Villanueva, DE

Knott is somewhat of a surprise given his special-teams contributions last season, but he dealt with a hamstring injury during training camp and faces a four-game suspension.

Eagles Notes: Kelly, Matthews, Carroll, Long, Barkley, Villanueva

Eagles second-rounder Jordan Matthews “caught everything thrown his way and lined up both inside and outside,” according to Phillymag.com’s Sheil Kapadia, who took stock of the team’s draft picks now that spring work has concluded. Kapadia expects Matthews to emerge as the team’s No. 1 slot receiver.

Other Eagles tidbits:

  • Head coach Chip Kelly held a press this week and was again asked about the unceremonious divorce from DeSean Jackson, but Kelly made it clear that he’s not in the message sending business. Bob Grotz of the Delaware County Daily Times relayed that bit of information as well as a related quote from center Jason Kelce which indicates that, while the Jackson release resonated, it has not affected the team’s stability: “As opposed to the way a lot of the media portrays it I don’t think that the release was solely on character things and a lot of other things, I think that might be something that’s been played out way too far. I think there are a lot of different factors. His release has not changed in my mind anything about the way this organization runs, the culture of it or anything.”
  • Free agent acquisition Nolan Carroll and 2013 undrafted free agent Travis Long were among a handful of under-the-radar players highlighted by Matt Lombardo of NJ.com. Now two years removed from a reconstructed ACL, Long is pushing for a roster spot and has drawn praise from Kelly.
  • Long would help his chances of making the roster by proving himself valuable on special teams, an area the Eagles have made a concerted effort to improve, notes ESPN’s Phil Sheridan: “The Eagles added Bryan Braman, a linebacker who excelled on special teams in Houston, and cornerback Nolan Carroll, an excellent gunner on coverage teams. Safety Chris Maragos was a special teams regular for Seattle last year. Darren Sproles, who will see plenty of time on offense, is a first-rate return man.”
  • Is Matt Barkley‘s arm strength a major concern? Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com thinks so.
  • Army product Alejandro Villanueva, an undrafted free agent, is a long shot, but his work ethic is noteworthy and worth reading about. Kelly told team website writer Bo Wulf he’s “amazed at everything that Alejandro does.”

Minor Moves: Villanueva, Tanard Jackson

This time of year, NFL teams are engaged in a flurry of transactions, signing and releasing players with little or no game experience. We’ll keep track of said minor moves in this post, and any updates will be added to the top of the list:

  • The NFL has reinstated Redskins safety Tanard Jackson, tweets Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Jackson was suspended indefinitely in 2012 for violations of the league’s substance abuse program, and hasn’t seen game action since 2011.
  • The Eagles announced they have signed defensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva to a rookie free agent contract. Villanueva is a veteran of the the U.S. Army who has risen to the rank of captain, and has served three tours in Afghanistan. He last played football as a receiver for Army in 2009. The Eagles watched the 6’9″, 277 pound Villanueva work out at the Super Regional Combine in April.