The Pittsburgh Steelers were not short on players who had poor performances last Friday night against the Detroit Lions, either from their starters or their backups. Today, we take a closer look at the last piece of the offensive line puzzle, Alejandro Villanueva.
Villanueva joined the team last season as an undrafted player that had floated around the NFL looking for a spot, and found himself as the left tackle when the team lost Kelvin Beachum to injury and couldn't trust Mike Adams at the position. Pittsburgh let Beachum go in free agency, but addressed the position in the NFL draft and by bringing in another left tackle in free agency. Villanueva is the presumed starter, but has to hold off his competition throughout this preseason.
Last week was not a good start, and we take a closer look at the major mistakes he made.
Problems out the gate
This was the first play of the game and Villanueva got turned around in what looked like a routine pass blocking situation. It did not end up affecting the play, but it indicated to us in the film room that Villanueva may have had some first game jitters with the expectations placed upon him since last year. All he needed to do here was shuffle his feet and get his hands on the pass rusher, but stumbled and looked like a basketball player being crossed over.
This is very routine thing for Villanueva that he did all last season, it looks like more of an issue of nerves than of being a problem as a lineman.
On the same drive, Villanueva cost the Steelers a first down when he committed an illegal hands to the face penalty on a third down conversion. The play started out by him getting beat to the inside by the pass rusher, and then followed up by him not being able to get in the right position to make up for getting beat.
If Villanueva could have managed to get his head on the front side of the pass rusher, he may have been able to attack from a better foundation and not committed the drive costing penalty. This is something that is very fixable and hopefully we see less of as Villanueva continues to work.
At this point it looked like the young player's bad day had just snowballed into his worst day. From the mistakes shown above, it looks like he is just getting beat bad by his opponent and completely rattled. This time he gets into his stance and chops his feet appropriately, but fails to get his hands on the pass rusher and allows him to cross his face. One of the main cardinal sins of being a lineman is putting your head down, but another is letting your opponent cross your face without being touched.
Needs a turnaround
For now, Villanueva's poor performance can be chalked up to opening day jitters as his tape last year showed that he could go up against top pass rushers and hold his own. However if he wants things to stay that way he has to show that it was a fluke of a letdown by stepping up in the coming weeks.