The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2016 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Never the less, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: Alejandro Villanueva
Position: Left Tackle
Experience: 2 Years
Alejandro Villanueva has come a long way as a football player over the course of the past three years. He was just learning the position three years ago when the Steelers signed him to their practice squad after playing defensive end with the Eagles. After a year of cramming, he was thrust into the starting lineup several games into the 2015 season in a trial by fire.
The Army Ranger showed gradual improvement over the course of that year, but he didn’t exactly pick up where he left off in 2016. Villanueva had some rough stretches in the early portions of the season, but he made major strides starting roughly after the bye week that had many arguing that he was becoming a top 10 left tackle, and perhaps the most improved player from the start of the season to the finish.
His 6’9”, 320-poundish frame is physically imposing, and the more he plays, the better he learns to fully take advantage of his height and strength. Being that tall can easily become a liability for an offensive lineman when leverage is so important, but he has improved in that area.
He seems to be at his best when he is able to play aggressively. Both of the Steelers’ tackles have learned to combat their opponents well, knocking down the edge rusher’s hands. Villanueva has sent several would-be sackers tumbling to the grass after swiping their arms as they sought for leverage.
Aggressiveness is also his best attribute as a run-blocker. In conjunction with his athleticism, the Steelers have begun to use him as a puller and as a second-level blocker. His work in the running game in particularly seemed to become more advanced in the latter stages of this past season.
It’s somewhat fulfilling even as an outside observer to see how far Villanueva has come since the Steelers took a chance on him as a conversion project in 2014. He is truly beginning to live up to his potential and should provide value for the team at the left tackle position for years to come if he continues to play at the level that he showed that he can.