Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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: Even
The last time that we talked about Alejandro Villanueva was over a month before the start of free agency, and there were still a lot of things we didn’t know at that time that we do know now. We know that Ramon Foster retired. We know that B.J. Finney left in free agency. We know that Stefen Wisniewski was brought in to compete at left guard.
We also now know that that job will basically be between Wisniewski and Matt Feiler, their right tackle, which also is predicated upon at least one of their young tackles stepping up and looking like they can be trusted to start, between Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor.
So what does al this mean for Villanueva, who is entering the final year of his contract? Hard to say, really. On the one hand, moving the other tackle over to guard could make him more valuable, yet at the same time, it gives the young tackles the opportunity to showcase themselves for 2021.
What if, for example, both Okorafor and Banner show out this offseason, and look as though they can be starters? What of Villanueva has a down year? Is it so implausible that the 2021 starting offensive line looks something like this?: Okorafor – Feiler – Pouncey – DeCastro – Banner.
The uncertainty over the tackle position also makes it more likely that the Steelers can consider it in the draft. Rather than wait to figure out if one of these guys is a starter, they could just draft one, in a deep tackle class, that they feel comfortable about, at the same time knowing that only Okorafor is actually under contract beyond this season.
Villanueva is going to turn 32 years old this season. At least for the moment, there are no indications that the Steelers intend to enter contract extension talks with him at any point this offseason, though needless to say we are living in a world of uncertainty right now.
But if they have to choose between a 32-year-old left tackle who has reached his peak and a younger option like Feiler or Banner—or both—that’s a conversation they will have to have. When he signed his first extension, it came cheaper as an exclusive rights free agent. It’s hard to imagine he’ll take $6 million per year on his next deal.