According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the Steelers are expected to shift their focus to LT Alejandro Villanueva now that RB Le’Veon Bell will play out the season under the franchise tag.
Fowler adds that there has been “minimal movement” toward an extension up to this point, but neither side wants Villanueva to miss significant time due to a contract dispute and talks could pick up closer to July 27.
There was speculation that Villanueva would not report to camp because he is unhappy playing under his one-year tendered offer as an exclusive rights free agent and wanted a long-term deal, given he will be 29-years old in September.
“After taking orders my whole life, now I’m working with a really good agent,” Villanueva said previously. “I’ll do whatever he tells me to do.”
Villanueva, 28, wound up signing on with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of Army back in 2015. He was waived during the preseason and later signed to the Steelers’ practice squad at the start of the season.
Pittsburgh brought Villanueva back on a one-year future/reserve contract last year. He is an exclusive rights free agent and stands to make a base salary of just $615,000 for the 2017 season should he sign his tendered offer.
In 2016, Villanueva appeared in all 16 games for the Steelers and was rated by Pro Football Focus as the No. 24 offensive tackle out of 78 qualifying players.