How Alejandro Villanueva could affect the Steelers 2021 NFL Draft
As the free agency period began after the end of the 2020 season, the Steelers assumed they would lose Alejandro Villanueva as his contract expired.
Now, as we head into April, no one has opted to sign Villanueva to a new contract. Also, in the last few weeks, some rumors have begun circulating due to the lack of interest from other NFL teams that perhaps the Steelers may still yet re-sign their star tackle. Whether this occurs is still a bit unclear. However, depending on what plays out, this could have a tremendous impact on the Steelers’ draft strategy this year. Two scenarios could play out.
Scenario #1: The Steelers re-sign Villanueva
If this should occur, it alters things in a major way. While they would still need a running back the Steelers at least have the luxury of opting for the player who brings the most value and improves the team. So while they could target a running back, there are only two potential first-rounders, Najee Harris or Travis Etienne.
The most realistic option of the two would be Harris. So possibly, if they are concerned Najee Harris might be off the board, they trade up to get him. If not, then then the Steelers could potentially target Gregory Rousseau, Jalen Phillips, Jayson Oweh. Also, possibly Rashod Bateman, Kadarius Toney, Zaven Collins, or Greg Newsome become considerations assuming they do not trade from the 24th spot. All could help as maximum value players. Or the Steelers could target a high-end player that unexpectedly falls. The three most likely players to fall are Mac Jones, Caleb Farley, or Kwity Paye
Scenario #2 Villanueva does not re-sign
In this case, The Steelers draft remains more needs-based. Their most likely first-round options become either a running back or a tackle. The nice thing about the 2021 draft, if they have to replace Villanueva, 2021 is the year to do it. There seems to be a bumper crop of potential first-round selections. Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Teven Jenkins, Alijah-Vera Tucker, Samuel Cosmi, Wyatt Davis, Liam Eichenberg, or even Walker Little’s name has come up. Any of these guys could have their name called if the Steelers need to take an offensive lineman.
For now, Alejandro Villanueva remains unsigned, and there are 26 days until the draft. The longer he remains unsigned, the greater the potential the Steelers could re-sign for pennies on the dollar compared to what it would have cost at the Steelers at the beginning of the free agency period. How this plays out is still anyone’s guess. Depending on how it does, it could have huge implications on who Pittsburgh takes with their all-important first-round selection.