The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva will play at a high level well into his 30s.
Explanation: Villanueva was a ‘late bloomer’, if that’s an accurate term to describe a player who spent his years of not making the team serving his country overseas. He finally landed a starting job at 27 and his now heading into his age-31 season, having made the Pro Bowl in the past two years.
The first thing that needs to be noted here is that Villanueva is very physically gifted and comes from an athletic family, his brother being an Olympic-level rugby player as well. He has played everything from wide receiver to defensive end and has made all of the bodily transformations that come along with those shifts.
In other words, he has both the willingness and ability to invest in his body for long-term durability, and he has hardly even missed a snap since he took over the starting left tackle job following Kelvin Beachum’s knee injury several years ago.
Let’s also be quick to note that he is playing the best football of his career and has been on a fairly consistent upward ascent every year. And he’s already 30, going to be 31 in September, so it’s not like we’re dealing with a long-off projection.
In reality, the biggest obstacle to Villanueva becoming an Andrew Whitworth-like late-career phenomenon is the simple fact that he is an intelligent, ambitious, and multi-faceted person who might not want to continue to play deep into his 30s. He has a business degree and a wealth of opportunity to make money after his football career is over.
Still, when it comes to the football aspect of the equation, one also can’t discount the immense influence, on and off the field, that Mike Munchak had on him, perhaps more than any other lineman the Hall of Famer has ever coached. Munchak’s gone now. How will that impact Villanueva on the field? We legitimately don’t know yet. That his play could suffer is a reasonable possibility.