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Former NFL QB David Carr: Steelers ‘Must Keep’ Alejandro Villanueva

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The Steelers have a number of key contributors set to hit free agency this offseason, but one analyst sees a surprising candidate as a “must keep” for Pittsburgh.

Former quarterback and current NFL Network analyst David Carr believes the Steelers must prioritize keeping impending free agent left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

Carr cites Villanueva’s “familiarity and longevity” as reasons why Pittsburgh should retain the 32-year-old, further describing him as “a savvy, reliable bookend tackle.”

Carr does concede that Villanueva’s age and struggles last season are of concern, but believes his experience and availability are too crucial for the Steelers to let him walk. 2020 was not exactly a glowing performance for Villanueva and the Steelers offensive line. While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was rarely sacked, he did not hold the ball long enough for the unit to be consistently tested, likely by design. Pittsburgh was brutal in the run game, boasting the league’s worst rushing attack a season ago. They averaged just 3.6 yards per carry.

Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, is beloved in Pittsburgh, but that will have no bearing on the tough decisions facing the Steelers over the coming weeks and months.

They have one of the most dire salary cap situations in all of football, and may have to part ways with additional fan favorites, such as wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner. The Steelers will likely prioritize the resigning of cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton. Hilton has become a staple of Pittsburgh’s defense and turned into one of the best slot corners in football, while Sutton has been strong in a similar role.

Given all those factors and the other crucial free agents the Steelers could prioritize resigning, it is becoming increasingly unlikely Villanueva will be back in Pittsburgh next year.

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Should Steelers Sign Zach Banner to be Starter in 2021?

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Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault.

He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. With Banner expected to be ready for a return next season, should the Steelers sign the 27-year-old with the anticipation that he could be a key piece to bolster the offensive line that was missing during the 2020 season?

Do you believe in Zach Banner? Comment below with why or why not.

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Steelers

Zach Banner Announces Self-imposed Social Media Ban Until he Signs New Deal

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Zach Banner is sending a clear message about his priorities ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Banner, who is a free agent and looking for a new deal with the Steelers, tweeted that he is going to stay off social media until he officially signs on the dotted line.

Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault. He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. Banner now hopes to return to Pittsburgh and be the missing piece the Steelers offensive line desperately needs.

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Steelers

Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp

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There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.

“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”

Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.

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