Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: Alejandro Villanueva
Stock Value: Up
Evaluation Type: Minor, Long-Term
Reason: Experience, Comfort
Alejandro Villanueva will be turning 30 early on in the 2018 season, but he is still young in terms of his actual playing career. The franchise left tackle will only be heading into his fourth season this year, coming off of a year in which he received Pro-Bowl distinction (though its merit can be debated).
A former undrafted free agent who previously attempted to make it in the league as a tight end and defensive end, the Steelers brought him in to develop at tackle (a position that he played for about a year and a half in college). He got just one redshirt year on the practice squad before being called upon to be the swing tackle the following year, forced into the starting job due to injury early on in the season.
He has remained in that post since then, never missing a start and hardly even missing many snaps. Yet while his general trajectory has been up, it has more been peaks and valleys than an even ascension. He has a habit of getting off to slow starts that he needs to break, for one thing.
The fact that he is still such a relative novice to the position (even Chukwuma Okorafor played tackle for about five years between high school and college by the time he was drafted) means that he is still learning and growing, even as he sets to turn 30 years old, entering year four.
One thing he will never have to work on is his appeal. He was the only offensive lineman in the NFL to have his jersey rank in the top 50 in terms of sales from last season. Though, as we all know, there was some extracurricular interest tied to that, it’s still a part of his appeal as not just a player, but as a person.
When it comes to Villanueva, he has a wealth of talent, as well as natural size, but I do think his reputation precedes him a bit. There is still definitely room for growth, perhaps even significant room for growth, mostly in terms of consistency. And that should be seen as a positive.