Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: T Alejandro Villanueva
Stock Value: Down
Alejandro Villanueva has certainly played better games than that which he displayed on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. While it’s granted that he drew a tough assignment, his performance was a contributing factor to the game being as close as it was.
For starters, he gave up the sack on the play on which Mason Rudolph was taken down in the end zone for a safety. It was a very dubious play call, a play-action vertical pass from the five-yard line, but he was simply beaten on the play, and that’s on him.
Not only that, he was also flagged not once but twice for holding. The first was declined because it came on a pass that was thrown incomplete on third and five, but the second was a problem, and killed a critical drive in the middle of the third quarter.
The penalty came immediately after the Steelers recorded an intercepted on a fake punt, gaining possession on the Rams’ own 31-yard line. On a play on which Tony Brooks-James recorded a three-yard gain on first and 10, Villanueva was docked for the penalty.
That pushed them back to first and 17 at the 38-yard line, and they never recovered. Chukwuma Okorafor gave up a sack to Matthews on the other side on the next play for a loss of five yards, pushing the Steelers clear out of field goal range, and the drive stalled, keeping it at 14-7. Los Angeles proceeded to go on a long drive that netted a field goal, 14-10.
And then of course he gave up the safety. 14-12.
Truth be told, this hasn’t been the best year of Villanueva’s career, and that’s somewhat disappointing, considering that last year was. He has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons, but he won’t be this year. While that will largely be a reflection upon the performance of the offense as a whole with Rudolph, I also don’t think his play has merited it, and this was one of his worst games of the season for sure. And now he gets Myles Garrett, who’s putting himself in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.