By Matthew Marczi
Player: Fernando Velasco
Position: Interior Lineman
Experience: 5 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2013 Salary Cap Hit: $522,353
2013 Season Breakdown: We all already know by now the story of Fernando Velasco and how he eventually wound up in Pittsburgh. He helped stabilize a Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line that was reeling from a season-ending injury to center Maurkice Pouncey, the line’s anchor, in the first game of the season.
The veteran center was able to plug in right away and start the second game of the year, which was vital for the Steelers at the time—despite the fact that they went on to lose his first three starts.
Velasco is an intelligent football player and adapted quickly, gradually becoming a leader among the offensive line, alongside left guard Ramon Foster, the elder statesman of the group. On the field of play, his performance itself was generally adequate, with some bumps and bruises along the way.
As I’ve written previously, Velasco has gotten—and perhaps deserved—somewhat special treatment from fans excusing some of his play for the fact that he was able to come in right away and stabilize the offensive line.
Generally speaking, Velasco’s run-blocking in particular left a lot to be desired in most instances, though he did have a good game against the Cleveland Browns the first time around.
On the other hand, he struggled against the New York Jets’s defensive front in Week Five, and later against the Buffalo Bills in the passing game. He also labored through his run-blocking in the second game against the Baltimore Ravens, which ended up being his last game of the year after getting injured near the goal line.
Free Agency Outlook: The Steelers would certainly like to bring Fernando Velasco back, but they would like to do so in a reserve role, likely for veteran minimum. Velasco will most certainly be holding out for a starting opportunity.
He started 11 games for the Steelers this past season, but the year before that, he started every game for the Tennessee Titans, and was only released after the Titans signed an experienced center in free agency.
The one advantage that the Steelers might have is, obviously, Velasco’s injury. Though he promises to be back early enough, there are no guarantees when Velasco will be ready to return to play. Additionally, he will be rehabbing with the Steelers, who will thus have the best understanding about his recovery.
He also enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh, which also plays in their favor, but there’s no way they can guarantee him a starting position. That could be a deciding factor if he has an opportunity to start elsewhere.
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