By Matthew Marczi
When Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey went down in the season opener, the team was lucky that a player such as Fernando Velasco was available to come off the street and play the position just a week later.
By no means, however, does that mean that he is not without his warts.
Take, for example, the following play, in which he is blown up off the line of scrimmage by the defensive tackle, disrupting a carry by Le’Veon Bell.
The tackle gets enough initial leverage that he walks Velasco back into the pulling David Johnson, which disrupts the flow of the blocking pattern. Bell is fortunate enough to end up with a two-yard gain on the play.
One of the appeals of Velasco was his familiarity with zone schemes, and some display of aptitude on the move. As the samples below suggest, however, he still has a long way to go to live up to Dermontti Dawson pulling from center.
On the first play, Velasco is too slow to get out to linebacker Erin Henderson. Had he done so, wide receiver Markus Wheaton would certainly have gained at least a few more yards at the end of this run and made it more clear that it was a first down, had he not actually been able to break free. Instead, Henderson out-maneuvers Velasco to make the tackle.
Later in the first quarter, Henderson once again proves too quick for Velasco on the Antonio Brown end-around. In this instance, however, it is Henderson’s own inertia that prevents him from making the play, as Velasco hardly gets a fingernail on him despite the play’s ultimate success.
In the final example, Velasco is simply pulling and looking for something to do. He presumes that his fellow linemen reach their blocks and hold them. Perhaps it is somewhat difficult to judge him too harshly for being unable to locate an assignment on this play, but he could certainly have helped out Ramon Foster on Henderson.
This is not to say that Velasco was a bad signing; I have already said otherwise. However, it should at least calm the discussion that the Steelers should just let Pouncey walk because Velasco has all the answers.