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: Alejandro Villanueva will have a needed bounceback game against Jadeveon Clowney.
Explanation: Steelers Pro Bowl eft tackle Alejandro Villanueva does have a history of getting off to slow starts at the beginning of the season. He managed to largely avoid that in 2018, his struggles against Myles Garrett being overblown by those only looking at the latter’s stat line, but he had another rough opener on Sunday against the New England Patriots, which included perhaps the first time in his career he had two holding penalties in the same game.
It doesn’t matter who it’s against. Villanueva is capable of performing well against any defender on the edge in the NFL when he is playing up to his abilities, so the fact that his next assignment is Jadeveon Clowney isn’t that important. If he’s doing what he’s supposed to do, he will have success.
Clowney, who was lately traded to the Seattle Seahawks from the Houston Texans, didn’t have a dominant game against a Cincinnati Bengals team that started Andre Smith at left tackle, anyway. He had two tackles, one for a loss, with one sack and one quarterback hit. All things considered, you would expect a lot more from a superstar playing against a backup lineman who never started at left tackle before. Whether that’s because he’s still adjusting to the Seahawks’ defense or not, I can’t say.
Clowney is an even better run defender than he is a pass rusher, and that’s where he’s going to hurt Villanueva, who like the rest of the line is a better pass protector than run blocker anyway. The Steelers tried and failed to establish the run this past week. They’ll try again this week, but James Conner is not going to be able to get to the edges in this game.
In the past, Villanueva has taken multiple games to get himself going. Up to six games or more, even, as was the case in 2016. Based on his performance against a relatively so-so pass-rushing team, he didn’t exactly look like he was about to take off one week later.