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
There hasn’t really been a lot to talk about, or even anything, as it pertains to Alejandro Villanueva, the veteran left tackle who is entering his sixth season in the NFL. Or at least his sixth season of accrued experience. He is also entering the final year of a four-year contract that he signed in the Summer of 2017, during which he made the Pro Bowl twice.
Yet there hasn’t been even a whiff of the Steelers considering give him a long-term (or even short-term) contract extension this year. Villanueva is set to earn $5 million this season as a base salary, and he has a total cap hit of just under $8.4 million tied to his original signing bonus and a contract restructure in 2018.
Without the restructure, his cap hit would only be $6.625 million, which it’s fair to say would be a bargain for even a middling starter at left tackle. Throw in right tackles and that’s substantially low. There are currently 30 tackles whose contracts earn them more per season than Villanueva.
But can the Steelers afford to re-sign him? Is he worth re-signing at a significant price increase? With Matt Feiler a pending unrestricted free agent—not to mention Zach Banner as well, and Chukwuma Okorafor could theoretically be due for an extension in 2021 if he emerges as a starter—there are a lot of decisions to be made at the position.
And that could mean a hard decision to be made in letting Villanueva, who will turn 32 in September, finishing out his career with another organization. Of course, that is predicated upon their ability to cobble together two starters and depth without him, and that’s not to be taken as a given just yet.
Suffice it to say that investment in the offensive line is an imminent necessity in the near future, and it’s not altogether clear whether or not he will be a part of it. That will largely be determined on his asking price and his play this season, as well as the play of others, as it seems highly unlikely he will receive an extension right now.