2020 Offseason Questions: Will Villanueva Be Starting LT In 2021?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will Alejandro Villanueva be the Steelers’ starting left tackle in 2021?

Later this year during the 2020 season, Alejandro Villanueva is going to turn 32 years old. He is entering the final year of his contract, at least for now, though it remains a possibility that they are capable to get an extension done with him later on in the Summer.

If we should go into the 2020 season without a new deal for Villanueva, then, however, we do raise the possibility of change. It’s no secret that the offensive line is getting older, and at some point they’re going to have to get younger bodies in there.

A lot of people bring up the fact that Villanueva hasn’t been playing for all that long. He has five full NFL seasons under his belt, plus a year on the practice squad. But it’s important to keep in mind that he wasn’t exactly idle while he wasn’t in the NFL. He was in the Army, which is going to put some tread on your tires too.

Consider the following possibility: Stefen Wisniewski starts at left guard, and the Steelers draft a lineman who will start at left guard later on. That leaves Matt Feiler at right tackle, while Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor both remain on the shelf.

Both Feiler and Villanueva are unrestricted free agents next year, the former being likely both cheaper and younger. Can you afford to pay both of them? Or do you have to trust that one of the young tackles in your system will be worth the investment? Banner, by the way, will also be an unrestricted free agent. Do you want to lose a 27-year-old potential franchise piece?

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