While all the focus has been on a potential Le’Veon Bell hold out from training camp, another key figure on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense could also stay away in hopes of earning a long-term contract.
Starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who is an exclusive-rights free agent, may not report to camp unless Pittsburgh offers him the deal he thinks he’s worth. Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that neither Villanueva nor his agent have committed to him being in attendance when the team’s training camp starts next week.
Set to earn just $615,000 next season should he sign the exclusive-rights tender, Villanueva has very little leverage. He can’t negotiate with any other teams and would miss out in a sizable payday should he be an extended holdout.
The 28-year-old Army vet served three tours of duties in Afghanistan before making a career change. This past season saw him start all 16 games at the all-important left tackle position. Needless to say, Villanueva definitely deserves a raise. Whether Pittsburgh ends up giving it to him could play a role in how the team’s offensive line functions in front of Ben Roethlisberger in 2017.