Roster breakdown: Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 offensive line

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva (78). Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva (78). Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line displayed as poor of a group effort as we have seen in the trenches since Big Ben first entered the league. 

However, with the cap situation, the Steelers have their hands tied in terms of fixing the biggest issues on the roster. So we really have to take a look into each of these players with a different lens and see who has to be replaced vs. who can hold out for another year or two.

As a whole, the Steelers displayed somewhat average pass-blocking ability, which was masked by the very small amount of time Ben would have the ball in his hands. The Steelers suffered in terms of run-blocking easily being in the bottom 5 of teams in the entire league in this area. There are going to be changes to this line, the main question is who should be in and who should be out in 2021.

Big Al Villanueva has long been a fan favorite.

The pro-bowler’s story is incredible as a former Army ranger who went from protecting our country’s freedoms to protecting Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside. He has been capable for multiple years of keeping pass rushers from getting a shot at Ben from his back.

Status: Free agent

Projected Contract: 3 yr $45 million total

While PFF has Big Al as the 4th best of all free-agent tackles in the NFL I do not see him as a player that must be resigned. The Steelers couldn’t afford his projected worth, and to be honest, he has looked like he peaked in 2018. There has been little to no push from him on the edge in run plays and he looks like he is visibly getting slower on the edge. The left tackle is supposed to be the most athletic, and technically sound lineman a team has on their roster. At this point in his career, he is not.

Potential replacements via the 2021 draft

Alex Leatherwood (Alabama) is one of the top tackles in the draft. He has dominated the college scene for 3 years and comes in as the most NFL ready tackle in the draft. He could be a pro-bowler from day one in the league with multiple All-Pro selections looming in the future.

Liam Eichenberg (Notre Dame) is the best offensive lineman in the FBS. He is one of the most stout run-blockers of all tackles in the draft and in terms of fitting a power scheme, he would look elite from day one in the league. He isn’t as quick laterally and may get beat by some of the elite speed rushers in the league but overall is good enough in pass protection to not be a liability. He would be drafted for a better running attack and it would work.

Jackson Carman (Clemson) is my favorite pick of every tackle in the draft if he falls to round 2. He has the most upside of any tackle in the draft. He is a freak athlete and will be gone by the end of day 2 purely based on that. Some claim he should make the move to guard at the next level due to his strength, size, and prowess in the run game. Yet, with better coaching and technique for pass protection, the huge left tackle would do well at his current position in the NFL. If his technique is improved enough he could become the best tackle in the league for several years.