The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Will Alejandro Villanueva’s agent advise him to hold out of training camp—and will he listen to his agent?
I think that one thing the Steelers front office has made clear over the decades is that they are not going to negotiate with players while they are participating in a holdout. While I believe they have refrained from fining no-shows (correct me if I’m wrong, and in Mike Wallace’s case, he had an unsigned restricted free agent tender), they have more than virtually any other team held their ground when it comes to this.
But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be players every once in a while who still find it to be in their best interests. There could potentially be two of them this year, including running back Le’Veon Bell. But truth be told, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he misses a couple weeks of camp.
The other is a more interesting conversation. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva doesn’t have a ton of leverage, given that he is technically an exclusive rights free agent. If the Steelers really wanted to, they could force him to play for a veteran-minimum salary this year or not play at all, and thus make no money.
There is also the fact that Villanueva still reported to OTAs without a contract simply because he felt that it was the right thing to do for his career, to continue to get better. But…but he did say that when it comes to training camp, he didn’t rule out the possibility of not reporting, and that he would heed the advice of his agent in that regard.
Is his agent familiar with the Steelers’ past history of shutting out contract talks with players who choose not to appear? If so, might he still feel that it is in his client’s best interest of withholding his services? I’m inclined to lean toward the negative, but not with full confidence. We will know now within a matter of days, fortunately.