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: Will the Steelers find a way to keep Alejandro Villanueva?
As it turns out, while there have been some exceptions for certain, by and large, I think we can safely say that the league is dealing with a depleted market right now. A lot of players—particularly skill position players it seems—are settling for one-year deals. Only a relative handful of players are really getting the big deals that are typically expected, and even some of those could be regarded as underwhelming.
The tackle market has not been overwhelmingly robust, and in fact some teams have preferred to trade for a player than to sign a free agent. Alejandro Villanueva remains one of those free agents who are still on the market following six seasons as the Steelers’ left tackle.
There have been reports that the Steelers are still interested in retaining him, and that does seem plausible. After bringing back JuJu Smith-Schuster on a cap-friendly deal full of void years, and news that they are trying to trade Steven Nelson, they can create the cap space to do a deal similar to what they gave the wide receiver.
By now, it seems obvious that 2021 is probably the final ride for Ben Roethlisberger, and that could be influencing a lot of decisions, including decisions made by players. Perhaps Villanueva would like to finish out Roethlisberger’s career with him—and then go back on the market under healthier economic circumstances next year.