One of the biggest matchups this Sunday against the Browns will be Alejandro Villanueva going up against talented edge rusher Myles Garrett. The 2017 number one overall pick has already wreaked havoc on teams this season, as he’s up to six sacks and 19 pressures in the early stages. His ability to bull rush and turn the corner on tackles have made gameplanning for him tough all season long. He has also forced eight turnovers just based on those pressures alone.
With that being said, Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva is a seasoned veteran who has gone up against some of the best. His role this Sunday will be important to ensure Big Ben has time to throw to exploit a relatively weak and inexperienced Browns secondary.
To discuss what he needs to do to slow down Garrett, I watched every snap of his game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Obviously, their pass rushers are not on the same level as Garrett, but it gave me a taste of what to expect from Villanueva this Sunday.
Maintaining Hand Placement And Anchor
The first thing I noticed from Villanueva was inconsistencies in hand placement and providing late hands. On his solid reps, he would have late hands, not lunge or overextend, and keep his feet and shoulders square. There were a few reps in the first half where he simply overextended combined with poor hand placement. Below showcases a few examples of that, as well as bad positioning and opening up his hips to allow the pass rusher to get by him.
In the same breath, he did do a solid job fixing those inconsistencies in the second half of the game. Here against Josh Sweat, he does a nice job swatting down Sweat’s arm, who was trying to long arm Villanueva. It’s one of his signatures moves and does it well. Expect him to do the same types of things against Garrett.
It will be important that Villanueva is prepared for counter moves when going up against Garrett. The great pass rushers have two to three moves in their arsenal, whether it is shooting inside, a spin move or swim move. Villanueva did a nice job on Sunday being able to thwart the Eagles pass rushers counter moves last Sunday. It will be important that he again maintains his base, has late hands and stays square will manuerving against whatever moves Garrett will throw at him.
The Steelers should try and chip Garrett early in the game to make him think about flying up the field on every snap. Using Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald on those chip blocks can help Villanueva get a rhythm and feel early in the game of what Garrett plans to do against him. Simply leaving Villanueva on an island and making him block Garrett one-on-one play in and play out would be a huge mistake. Below is an example of what I expect to see this Sunday against the Browns. They may even get JuJu or James Washington involved on chip blocks depending on the down and distance of the play.
The Browns like to move around Garrett on either side of the defense, so all of the Steelers lineman should expect to block him at some point. While he likely won’t win every rep, I think Villanueva and the Steelers offense find ways to scheme around Garrett and neutralize his deadly ability to get to the quarterback. If not, it could be a long day for the Steelers offense, who up until this point have found ways to score at will in every game this season.