The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks a slight improvement from the past two seasons, during which they did not even qualify for the playoffs altogether. They have now done four seasons without securing a victory beyond regular season play.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
They did manage to go 12-4 during the regular season, and secured their first AFC North title since 2017, posting a new franchise record by opening the season with 11 consecutive wins, but of course it all fell apart after that. Their only victory after that required a 17-point comeback.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2020 season.
Player: Alejandro Villanueva
Experience: 6 Years
Along with most other pending free agents, it seems as though Pittsburgh Steelers fans are ready and willing to watch Alejandro Villanueva pack his bags and go, unsatisfied with his level of play of late, particularly during the 2020 season.
They would be wrong, of course, at least from the presumption that his play was somehow worse than it had been, because he has pretty much been the same player all along. He has a lot of skill when it comes to pass protection, which is the most important part, but struggles—as almost everybody does—with speed rushers, and run-blocking has never been his strength.
But the proposition of the Steelers finding a better left tackle for the 2021 season is not a favorable one. Yet they probably won’t have much of a choice. Villanueva, who has only made $24 million over the past four seasons, will almost surely make more than that over the next two years, maybe even more than that in year-one cashflow for whatever deal that he signs in free agency.
The 32-year-old will have a market, if in no small part because franchise left tackles don’t frequently hit the open market in the first place. This is a position that teams typically do a good job of locking in when they have them, but the Steelers are simply not in a position to do that.
As far as his play in 2020 goes, he had a couple of games in which he performed below the line—Carl Lawson of the Cincinnati Bengals most notably gave him fits, and not for the first time, but he is exactly the type of player against which he has had issues in the past—but the truth is that he played much better than you might think based on how some fans talk about him.