2021 Offseason Questions: Any Chance Of Villanueva Returning?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Is there any chance of the Steelers actually retaining Alejandro Villanueva?

There was a report that came out over the weekend via ESPN that suggested the Steelers had had discussions about retaining left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who is scheduled to be a free agent later this week after serving six seasons as Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside protector.

Most had written this possibility off, citing the robust market for left tackles, and figuring that he should comfortably command a salary in the eight-figure range, some projecting perhaps as high as $15 million per season, which would be a pay increase of two and a half times his earnings rate over the past four seasons.

Whether the Steelers are content with that figure or his market is something less than that—or Villanueva would be willing to take less to stick with the familiar—the report didn’t necessarily make it sound as though a deal were imminent, or even likely.

In fact, the odds remains strongly against that happen, I would imagine. But is there any change of it happening? I imagine Villanueva’s market would have to come in significantly more shallow than expected in order for that to happen, especially with competitive teams like the Chiefs and Colts now in need of left tackles—possibly the Rams as well, among others.

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