Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox has projected every team’s biggest regret of the 2021 offseason, and thinks the Pittsburgh Steelers made a mistake letting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva walk and sign with the Baltimore Ravens.
With Villanueva gone, Knox believes the Steelers will be hindered by their restructured offensive line. He also asserts that the club could have re-signed Villanueva even with their challenging salary cap situation at the onset of free agency.
“While the Steelers were in a tight cap situation entering the offseason—they have $7.9 million in space—Villanueva signed a team-friendly deal with the rival Ravens,” Knox wrote. “He’ll carry a cap hit of just $4.8 million.”
For Knox, Pittsburgh’s loss is ultimately Baltimore’s gain. Not only do they no longer have to face him, but they can slide him into their own front.
“Landing Villanueva was big for Baltimore, which traded starting tackle Orlando Brown to Kansas City,” Knox writes. “So, by letting him go, Pittsburgh lost a franchise centerpiece and a divisional foe strengthened itself. That’s a lose-lose development just about any way you slice it.”
While the Steelers will have a new look offensive line in 2021, last season’s group that included Villanueva was not exactly stellar.
The Steelers were the worst rushing team in the NFL, and Villanueva individually looked to have lost a step at times both in run blacking and pass protection. He will also be moving to right tackle with Baltimore, a position he has not played before during his professional career.
A former Army Ranger, Villanueva played the first seven years of his career in Pittsburgh. He earned Pro Bowl nods in 2017 and 2018.
Chukwuma Okorafor has moved from right tackle to left tackle for the Steelers to replace Villanueva, with Zach Banner expected to return to man the right tackle spot he vacated in 2020 after suffering an ACL injury. The Steelers also added free agent Joe Haeg and drafted Dan Moore Jr. from Texas A&M in fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft to bolster the position.