Sure, Alejandro Villanueva signed a contract with the arch rival Baltimore Ravens yesterday. And yes, he may have taken a shot or two at some members of the Steelers at his press conference. https://triblive.com/sports/alejandro-villanueva-embraces-joining-ravens-takes-veiled-shot-at-juju-smith-schuster/ But Alejandro Villanueva deserves better than what he is getting from this fan base lately. This is man who played left tackle at a very high level for years in Pittsburgh. Not to mention his distinguished military career. Villanueva was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroics in Afghanistan as a member of the Army Rangers.
How it all started:
Villanueva tried multiple times to latch on to a team as a tight end coming out of West Point. Both the Bengals and Bears turned him down in tryouts. He would eventually switch to defensive tackle where he earned a spot with the Philadelphia Eagles. It was in a pre-season game in 2014 versus the Eagles when Mike Tomlin would notice the 6’9” Villanueva. Eight days later he was waived by Philadelphia, and subsequently signed by Pittsburgh. He spent all of 2014 on the practice squad learning a new position. The Steelers had decided to move him to tackle, and the rest is history. By midway through the 2015 Villanueva took over for an injured Kelvin Beachum. He would hold on to that position until the end of the 2020 season.
A model citizen among the craziness:
Think of the things Alejandro Villanueva has seen as a member of this organization. From the Le’Veon Bell holdout drama, and the Antonio Brown meltdown. There was the Martavis Bryant nonsense, and the Ben Roethlisberger retirement threats. Oh, and how could we forget the fiasco that was the James Harrison release. This franchise was an absolute mess for a three year stretch. Open letter to Art Rooney II: You ARE running a circus
Throughout all this craziness, Alejandro Villanueva quietly went about his business. That business was being one of the best left tackles in the game. All the while he was being criminally underpaid for what upper echelon left tackles were making. NFL pay scale rules for undrafted free agents are infamously low. Team’s have complete control over these players for years. Not once did we hear a single complaint, or a threat of a holdout.
Alejandro Villanueva deserves better from this fanbase and it’s media. He was a model employee for this franchise for six seasons. He never showed up to training camp in a tank, or record a locker room meeting on Facebook live. Villanueva just showed up and played left tackle at a Pro-Bowl level for the Pittsburgh Steelers. We often complain the modern athlete is more worried about their “brand” than the actual team. In Alejandro Villanueva we had exactly the type of player we wanted, maybe we should appreciate that a little more on his way out the door.