Longtime Steelers LT Alejandro Villanueva signs with rival Ravens

Chris Adamski, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg
·2 min read

May 4—The Pittsburgh Steelers' longtime left tackle is staying in the division.

Alejandro Villanueva signed a two-year contract with the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens. ESPN and the NFL Network reported the deal was for $8 million guaranteed with up to $14 million in total compensation possible.

Villanueva, 32, started each of the Steelers' past 90 regular-season games and seven playoff games since taking over as a starter early in the 2015 season. A former Army Ranger and graduate of Army West Point, Villanueva became one of the Steelers' most popular players and had respect within the team's locker room.

Villanueva was named to the Pro Bowl after the 2017 and '18 seasons. But with the Steelers having trouble — particularly in run blocking — along their line in recent seasons, they are making over a unit that once had the most continuity in the league. Longtime starters at left guard (Ramon Foster) and center (Maurkice Pouncey) announced retirements over the past 14 months. So did former right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who spent the past two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

Also, three-year starter Matt Feiler left via free agency. That leaves David DeCastro as the only player along the Steelers offensive line who has as much as one NFL season as a full-time first-team starter, though there is an outside chance veteran newcomer Joe Haeg could earn a starting gig.

It was reported last month the Ravens likely were to sign Villanueva, but the NFL/NFLPA collective bargaining agreement awards compensatory picks to teams based on their signings in free agency before a certain date (May 3 this season). That delayed the official signing until this week.

Villanueva joined the Steelers in 2014 after a failed attempt by the Philadelphia Eagles to develop him into a defensive lineman. The 6-foot-9 Villanueva played some wide receiver at Army.

The Steelers have penciled in fourth-year, former third-round pick Chuks Okorafor as their replacement for Villanueva. Okorafor has 19 career starts, but all are at right tackle, where Zach Banner was re-signed to take over.

The Steelers drafted tackle Dan Moore from Texas A&M in the fourth round. Free-agent signees Haeg and Rashaad Coward are among other options at tackle.

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Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at cadamski@triblive.com or via Twitter .