Versatility May Be The Key for Alejandro Villanueva

Former Army ranger Alejandro Villaneuva has packed on somewhere around 70 pounds over the past year. He was a 277-pound defensive end when the Philadelphia Eagles signed him in May, but by August, he had already bulked up to 315 pounds, and was on an upward trajectory in terms of weight that has continued through his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an offensive tackle.

Villanueva recently confirmed that his weight gain has continued, adding up to perhaps another 30 pounds since that time, as the coaching staff wanted him to add to his frame. Though the Steelers’ official site still erroneously lists him at 277 pounds—his weight when he first signed with an NFL team last year—it’s clear that he was already north of 300 by the time he joined Pittsburgh.

This is my way of clarifying and correcting previous discussions of Villanueva over the past month, which mistakenly made the presupposition that he was under 300 pounds in August. An article from August 3 published on Comcast SportsNet Philly, however, makes it clear that he was already 315 pounds when he was with the Eagles.

The point of all this? Simply to alleviate any concerns about the seeming rapidity of his weight gain and its sustainability. The fact is that he has been on a steady increase in his bulk for the past year, which has taken him from under 280 pounds to north of 340.

His 6’9” frame doesn’t quite show it as it would on a shorter player, which means that the weight gain shouldn’t much hinder his agility and quickness. Which will be a very good thing if he hopes to make the 53-man roster this time around.

Naturally, quickness and agility are valued commodities for an offensive tackle, but he would greatly enhance his resume if he proves to be able to contribute on special teams as well. It would be a lot more appealing to carry a ninth offensive lineman on the roster if he is able to contribute on special teams.

And why wouldn’t he be able to? He was playing defensive end in Philadelphia last season, as well as during his freshman year, where he primarily played special teams. There is no doubt in my mind that the coaching staff will strongly consider Villanueva’s versatility when judging his value for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Of course, that value extends beyond special teams as well. Under Todd Haley, the Steelers have utilized the tackle-eligible over the past two seasons with Mike Adams. Villanueva was both a tight end and a wide receiver in college. It kind of just makes sense that they would at least give him a look in that capacity at some point during the course of this offseason.

Tight end, offensive tackle, wide receiver, back to tight end, then defensive end, and finally back to offensive tackle. It’s been a long and curious journey for Villanueva over the course of the past nine years, but it could be that winding road that finally gets him to his destination.

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