Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: T Alejandro Villanueva
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The veteran left tackle has been having a fairly quiet season, which generally is a good thing for offensive linemen.
Fans are frequently tougher on Alejandro Villanueva’s performances than they ought to be, because he really is a solid player. He will have issues with consistency, and he has never been anything more than an average run blocker, but as a blindside protector for Ben Roethlisberger, he is as good as anybody else that he has had in his entire career.
This season has been no different. While Pro Football Focus charges him for allowing two sacks on the season so far, you can review our own sack breakdowns to see for yourself why that may not be accurate. Alex Kozora’s analysis has him giving up zero sacks so far on the season, though technically his man has brought Roethlisberger down. His supposed sacks allowed were in weeks one and three.
It’s also worth noting that Villanueva has a history of warming up as the season goes on. Slow starts were more a part of the early days of his career, and he has evened out more recently, but this may be the cleanest start to a season that he has had to date.
Things may get a lot rougher with Myles Garrett up next, however. Garrett is unquestionably one of the best and most talented edge defenders in the NFL, and the two have had some strong battles in the past, including last season’s game when he ended up smashing Mason Rudolph over the head.
Villanueva, of course, is entering the final season of his contract, and the Steelers don’t immediately appear to have the money to re-sign him. They will have to get pretty creative in creating salary cap, or the cap has to come in a fair big higher than the agreed-upon $175 million floor, before the possibility of retaining him can begin to be reasonably entertained.