Once the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp gets underway in about five weeks, you can bet that there will be a lot of eyes on tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who will be attempting to make the 53 man roster this season after spending all of last year on the team’s practice squad.
Now weighing roughly 340 pounds, Villanueva’s height of 6’9″, while impressive, could actually serve as a liability to him and former Steelers offensive lineman and current radio network sideline analyst, Craig Wolfley, talked about that on the Thursday evening edition of Steelers Live.
“He’s such a tall drink of water that it’s hard for him to set is hips low for a bull-rush and protect the edge on a speed rush,” Wolfley said. “So, can he do that? He’s big and strong, got a huge wingspan, he can reach out there and be able to punch.
“Now, if he can time it and understand his distance and spacing with his arm reach, he can tag these guys and punch like crazy and keep these guys off. But, if he gets head-heavy and has problems setting his hips down, you’re going to see James Harrison school him in what it’s like to take on a bull-rush.”
Even though he and others will be watching for all of that closely this year during training camp, Wolfley also added that he’s already been impressed with other facets of Villanueva’s game over the course of the last year after watching him in practice.
“I do know this, he can come off the ball and run block,” Wolfley said. “He’s a road-grader. I watched him last year. Every Wednesday, [tight end coach] James Daniels takes those guys out there and they have a “bang and skull” session after practice, and he was taking Stephon Tuitt five, six yards off the ball. He can run block, he can flat-back, but the fact is, is he good enough to be able to take those tweener pass-rushers and protect that blindside?”
Villanueva has one of, if not the best, offensive line coaches in the league working with him in Mike Munchak and the former Army captain certainly is an intriguing prospect due to his size, athletic ability and background. Thanks to the Steelers having an extended training camp this year, in addition to one extra preseason game, Villanueva will have plenty of time to prove that he belongs on this year’s 53 man roster as long as he stays healthy.
While it is unlikely that Villanueva will be able to win a starting spot this season, you’d have to think that he has a great shot at beating out former second-round draft pick Mike Adams for the swing tackle spot this summer. Who knows, maybe his presence and performance will light a much-needed fire under Adams and ultimately force the team to keep both of them. After all, you can never have too many good tackles, right?