The narrative that had Alejandro Villanueva as the starting left tackle for the Steelers seems to be out the window at this point. Pittsburgh has made a contract offer to free agent Russel Okung, and you would have to assume he’s being brought in to be a starter. They also have meetings scheduled with former Charger tackle Chris Hairston and former Broncos tackle Ryan Harris. The door is not shut on former Steelers starter Kelvin Beachum, who they have shown interest in resigning. Beachum was lost early last season to a knee injury, opening the door for Villanueva to become the full time left tackle.
Why the seemingly sudden change in the Steelers plans? The answer isn’t obvious until you take a closer look at Pittsburgh’s pass protection schemes last year. The now retired Heath Miller played a big part in helping block outside pass rushers last season. Miller would frequently line up on the same side as Villanueva in order to help him with edge rushers. Some schemes would have Miller one on one on the outside, while Villanueva blocked down on defensive tackles. The Steelers have brought in a tight end in Ladarius Green who is nowhere near the blocker Miller was. Green can be a huge weapon as a receiver, but it leaves Pittsburgh vulnerable in pass protection.
Villanueva can eventually be the starting left tackle in Pittsburgh. With the team so close to contending for a Super Bowl, bringing in a veteran to protect Ben Roethlisberger is the smart play.