2021 Offseason Questions: How Will Play At LT Compare To Villanueva?

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: How will the play at left tackle this season compare to Alejandro Villanueva?

As head coach Mike Tomlin said last month, Chukwuma Okorafor is the team’s left tackle on paper right now — written in pencil. It remains to be seen who ends up starting there once the regular season begins. We do know it’s not going to be Alejandro Villanueva, who signed with the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday.

The Steelers’ top four tackles right now are Okorafor, Zach Banner, the free agent Joe Haeg, and the fourth-round draft pick Dan Moore Jr. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm has already suggested that Moore will be competing for a starting role.

Villanueva had been the team’s left tackle for the better part of the past six seasons. He reached the Pro Bowl twice during that time, although the past two seasons have not been his best, which is also true about everybody else on the line.

Okorafor started 16 games at right tackle last season after Banner, who won the job in training camp, injured his knee in the opener. It is expected that Banner will remain at right tackle now that he is back, with Okorafor moving over to the left side.

Assuming it is Okorafor, it is possible that he shows a higher level of comfort playing there than on the right side. He spent more time playing on the left side in college. Alternatively, it could be Moore, whom many had graded higher than where he was drafted in the middle of the draft.

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