Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, 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 offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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: After completing his four-year contract that he signed as an exclusive rights free agent in 2017 that paid him below what the market would have if he were a free agent, Alejandro Villanueva will finally be hitting the open market this month, and figures to make a substantial sum of money. He should be able to easily double his average annual salary of $6 million that he has made over the past four seasons.
A lot of Steelers fans have grown tired of Alejandro Villanueva, erroneously believing him to be an average or below average left tackle in the league. While the run game is not his strength, however, he is certainly an above-average pass protector, whose occasional rough game tends to get more attention than his great games.
Steelers fans will likely get a chance to see what they’re missing this year, however, as it’s all but assured that Villanueva will be signing elsewhere in free agency, perhaps for as much as about $15 million per season, the contract value that Pro Football Focus estimates he will earn—and which would net Pittsburgh a third-round compensatory pick.
While the 2020 season was not a particularly standout season for Villanueva either positively or negatively, it was fairly representative overall, and likely will be good enough to make him sufficiently sought-after in the open market for tackle-needy teams on the cusp of competing, with the Indianapolis Colts being a prime contender for landing him, who also have the salary cap space to do it.
No doubt those reading this know where Villanueva came from. He was 27 years old the first time he was on the 53-man roster. 2021 will be his age-33 season. His latecomer status is the reason he jumped on the opportunity to take an early contract four years ago, earning a four-year, $24 million contract with a $6.5 million signing bonus instead of playing for a couple million for the next two years.
But he only earned $5 million in base salary in each of the past two seasons, certainly much less than he could have been making had he waited. It’s very difficult to see a scenario in which he passes up his payday when he could comfortable double his career earnings over the next two years with ease.