Is Villanueva Lucky Number 7 And The Last On Left Side For Steelers’ No. 7?

During his first 13 years in the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has started 183 regular season games and that obviously means he’s taken snaps behind a multitude of different offensive line combinations. However, when it comes to left tackles who have started regular season games in front of Roethlisberger so far during his career, you may or may not be surprised to know that number currently matches the quarterback’s jersey number.

When Roethlisberger entered the league in 2004, Marvel Smith was the Steelers starting left tackle and he was quite a player even though he only garnered one Pro Bowl selection during his nine seasons in Pittsburgh. Smith, by the way, started 54 regular season games that also included Roethlisberger starting. However, late in the 2005 regular season, the Steelers were forced to use Trai Essex at left tackle for three of Roethlisberger’s starts due to Smith being sidelined by an ankle injury. Max Starks also made three starts at left tackle late in the 2007 regular season due to Smith being out injured.

Roughly a quarter way through the Steelers 2008 regular season, a back injury forced Smith out of action for good and Starks took over the left tackle spot at that point and he proceeded to start 30 regular season games in a row that Roethlisberger also started. A neck injury suffered by Starks midway through the 2010 regular season ultimately resulted in his year prematurely ending and the Steelers were forced to play journeyman Jonathan Scott at left tackle.

Scott closed out the Steelers 2010 season that ultimately ended with the team losing to the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. In case you forgot, the starting offensive line against the Packers from left to right was Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster and Flozell Adams. Yikes!

The Steelers ultimately parted ways with Starks ahead the 2011 regular season and that left Scott as the starter. However, an ankle injury suffered by Scott in the Steelers third regular season game against the Indianapolis Colts forced him to the sidelines and then-rookie Marcus Gilbert finished that contest out on the left side even though he was currently dealing with a shoulder injury. Those injuries resulted in Essex starting again at left tackle in the team’s Week 4 game against the Houston Texans.

The following week, the Steelers decided to sign a more physically conditioned and healthy Starks back to the roster and he proceeded to make 24 consecutive starts with Roethlisberger under center and much to the quarterback’s delight.

The Steelers moved on from Starks once and for all after the 2012 season and after a 2013 training camp battle between Mike Adams and Gilbert, the team settled on the former as the starter on the left side. Adams, the team’s second-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, however, played very poorly in the first four games on the 2013 regular season and the 0-4 Steelers benched him favor of Kelvin Beachum.

Of the next 31 regular season games that Roethlisberger wound up starting from Week 6 of the 2013 regular season until Week 3 of the 2015 regular season, Beachum started 30 of them. In the one game that Beachum missed late in the 2013 regular season due to a minor injury, Adams started in his place at left tackle.

Beachum’s time as the Steelers starting left tackle ultimately came to an end almost midway through the 2015 season due to serious knee injury and that resulted in Alejandro Villanueva taking over the spot.  The Steelers allowed Beachum to leave via free agency after the 2015 season and Villanueva has been the team’s starting left tackle ever since.

If you’re scoring at home, Roethlisberger has now had seven different left tackles start a regular season game in front of him so far during his career with Villanueva obviously being No. 7. Villanueva, as all of you should know by now, is hoping to receive a lucrative contract extension from the Steelers prior to the start of the 2017 regular season and I’m betting that Roethlisberger is hoping he receives one as well.

While it’s unclear as to how many more years Roethlisberger will wind up playing, one has to think that he’s not very interested in having an eighth starting left tackle in front of him before he decides to retire. The Steelers came up one game short of the Super Bowl in 2016, Villanueva’s first full season as the team’s starting left tackle and hopefully he and the rest of the offensive line can help keep No. 7 upright and healthy in 2017 on the way to the team capturing Lombardi Trophy number 7.

Starting Left Tackles During Ben Roethlisberger’s 183 Regular Season Games Played
Roethlisberger Starts Starting Left Tackle
57 Max Starks
54 Marvel Smith
30 Kelvin Beachum
22 Alejandro Villanueva
11 Jonathan Scott
5 Mike Adams
4 Trai Essex
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