Yesterday, we wrote about how well the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line has played this season. Top to bottom, they’ve all been excellent. But for the moment, let’s highlight Alejandro Villanueva, arguably the most “polarizing” linemen in the eyes of Steelers’ Nation. Everyone loves his story and background but there’s at least a vocal minority of fans who think he’s overrated and overmatched.
The numbers tell a different story. According to this graphic from Pro Football Focus, Villanueva is tied for the second fewest pressures allowed by any offensive tackle of 2018, giving up only five through the first six weeks.
Only the Saints’ Ryan Ramczyk has allowed fewer this season. While it would be nice to see these on a per-snap basis, I’d bet you anything if you did that, Villanueva would look even better. He hasn’t missed a snap this season and Ben Roethlisberger is third in the NFL with 261 pass attempts, on pace to shatter his previous high for a single-season.
Villanueva has routinely faced difficult matchups too. In Week One, probably his “worst” game, which was still very good, he faced Myles Garrett. The next week, he got Dee Ford. Tampa Bay brought Jason Pierre-Paul and company and he faced Terrell Suggs and the Ravens’ aggressive defense next. The last two weeks have pitted him against Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley while Sunday, he saw Carl Lawson, Michael Johnson, and everyone else the Bengals deep d-line threw at him.
There’s plenty of household names on that list. And Villanueva has won most of those battles.
Based on our weekly breakdown, we do have Villanueva responsible for two sacks this season, tied for the team lead. But that’s still an excellent number through six weeks. Compare it to the first six weeks of 2017, where he allowed 4.5. He gave up six for the entire season.
Signed to a four year deal last July, there’s little doubt he’s living up to every penny he’s earned.