Alejandro Villanueva was a stalwart at LT for the Pittsburgh Steelers since taking over for an injured Kelvin Beachum in Week 7 of the 2015 season. Villanueva started 97 consecutive games, including playoffs, never missing a game through the rest of his Steelers run, and becoming one of only four Steelers OTs (and the only LT) to earn multiple Pro Bowl honors as a Steeler:
- Franck Varrichione: 4x – 1955, 1957, 1958, 1960
- Charlie Bradshaw: 2x – 1963, 1964
- Tunch Ilkin: 2x – 1988, 1989
- Alejandro Villanueva: 2x – 2017, 2018
The Steelers informed Villanueva that they would not pursue resigning him, as they are moving towards more youth on the offensive line, and Villanueva will be 33 in September. On Tuesday, the Baltimore Ravens signed Villanueva to a two-year deal to find a short-term replacement for Orlando Brown, who was traded to Kansas City Chiefs and was likely to depart in free agency as the Ravens have a top LT in Ronnie Stanley locked up in a long-term deal.
At his introductory news conference, Villanueva acknowledged that he didn’t have many options in free agency (reportedly Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts were interested) and listed playing the Steelers twice was an additional incentive.
Villanueva made a few other remarks that were very easily misleading including, “It’s better for offensive linemen to play for a run-first team like the Ravens” and it did not take long for Twitter to distort his comments. One does not have to go very far to get a similar opinion, as Steelers guard Kevin Dotson shared the same sentiment during SteelerNation draft coverage (and one that most offensive linemen would agree with) about favoring run blocking.
It’s worth noting that this press conference was conducted by the Baltimore Ravens media and many of the questions asked did not attempt to disguise the nature of how loaded the questions were, such as “Do you feel the Steelers gave up on you after giving everything you could?” and multiple questions that dug into transitioning from primarily pass blocking vs. run blocking including: “How about psychologically, you’re going from the team that ran less than all but one team to the team that runs the ball more, what is the mindset of an offensive lineman when he gets to push forward and #2, I’ve been asked to ask you who will you carpool with next year?”
Disclosure: As a recommendation, don’t feed trolls by clicking on these tweets. Your SteelerNation staff suffers this for you so you don’t have to.
In his first comments since signing with Ravens, Alejandro Villanueva said he's looking forward to playing the Steelers and threw some shade at JuJu Smith-Schusterhttps://t.co/0jEENhxm74
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) May 5, 2021
Longtime #Steelers LT Al Villanueva doesn't even need to put his new #Ravens uniform on to show he has the necessary trash-talking down. Asked about losing his longtime commuting buddy, G David DeCastro, he says, "I'm sure Kevin Zeitler will be an upgrade."
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 5, 2021
Upon listening to the full press-conference, it was clear that these tweets were 100% clickbait.
Aditi Kinkhabwala could not even ask the question without the preface of saying that “she was asked to ask” about a commuting buddy, and the “upgrade” of Kevin Zeitler from David DeCastro had nothing to do with the player on the field, but 100% in jest and purely about commuting.
The Jamison Hensley tweet including “throwing shade on JuJu Smith-Schuster” was completely inferred as Villanueva never even mentioned Smith-Schuster. The comment about Tik-Tok was barely four seconds long and in reference to playing a more balanced offense. The irony inherent is that the Ravens don’t exactly implement a balanced offense – as the diatribe of questions early on were keen to point out.
These tweets ignored the very humble way Villanueva described his transition from the military into civilian life and the hard work put into becoming a quality lineman. Also insightful was Villanueva describing the Steelers practice structure primarily based on the offensive line dedicating a lot more time to pass protection (in particular preparing for Myles Garrett) as it was far more difficult and less time in practice focused on run blocking.
Curiously, the two-year contract was a $14M deal with $8M guaranteed, which was more in both APY and guaranteed money than the Steelers extended him in 2017 when he was 28.
As distasteful as it is to see the 4th 2x Pro-Bowler with the Steelers join the Ravens, Villanueva was nothing but a class act while wearing the black and gold and we will wish him the best in his future, especially after his time with the Ravens ends.