Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva was one of the heartwarming stories from the 2016 season. He went from an army ranger who found a way onto the practice squad to a starting left tackle in the span of two seasons. Last season was a stellar season for Villanueva, and ended up netting him a contract extension this offseason. Now engraved into a starting spot at left tackle, the play of Villanueva has tempered just a bit from his rapid trajectory. In Week Five against the Jaguars, some of his 2017 struggles were on display again.
Villanueva has had issues converting power with leverage. As shown below, he struggles dealing with a very powerful man in Calais Campbell. When Campbell sees where Le’Veon Bell is going to cut he immediately haunts Villanueva, who is locked in arms with Campbell. He gets free from the left tackle and is immediately right in the face of Le’Veon Bell. This resulted in a short loss.
Before the game, there was a question to how Villanueva would handle such a loaded defensive front led by Calais Campbell. Villanueva struggled with an All-Pro candidate in Everson Griffen and did the same with the Jaguars edge rushers as well. Below, Campbell wins with speed, power and a great swim move. He breezes by the tackle and forces Ben Roethlisberger into a sack, just one of two on the game. Roethlisberger has now been sacked eight times, five coming when matched up on Villanueva.
Even when the pressure is not putting Roethlisberger on the ground, the pressure is doing enough to force mistakes and bad plays. Below, Yannick Ngakoue speed by Villanueva and leaves him on the ground. Roethlisberger is looking that way, but the pressure forces Roethlisbegrer to change his plans and check down. Ngakoue got the better of Villanueva for most of the day, and was a premier threat on the right and left side.
Below, we Ben Roethlisberger wind up throw his fifth and final interception. We also see what caused it. It becomes apparent that when the ball leaves Roethlisberger’s hands it is a duck. That is because as he is letting go, Dante Fowler, who bullied over Villanueva, was able to get his right hand on the right shoulder of Roethlisberger in his delivery.
Whether it be a sack, stuffed run, check down or interception, the Jaguars were forcing offensive miscues. They were able to beat the Steelers left tackle for the majority of the day with one-on-one matchups and it had a positive impact on the game. The road does not get any easier this week as the Kansas City Chiefs pass rush comes into town. Hopefully Villanueva and his line is able to get back to the play of 2016 for a 2017 mid-season run.