The list of NFL players who have started in the league and also actively served in the United State military is not a long one. For Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, he finds himself on the short list as an Army Ranger who served our country in two tours overseas.
There are a lot of people who compare the team aspect of football to the military, but Villanueva will likely tell you the comparisons stop after you get past the teamwork aspect. Sacrificing your body for a first down and sacrificing your life for your country and the person standing next to you is a tough comparison.
Nonetheless, when Villanueva met with media Friday via Zoom, he was the one who made the comparison between the military and the NFL. To be more specific, he compared jumping out of an airplane to playing left tackle in the league.
Here is what Villanueva said:
“It reminds me of jumping out of airplanes when I was in the Army. There is very little upside. The best that can happen ... is to survive, and everything else that can happen is all negative. The best thing that can happen (when playing LT) is that nothing happens.”
Villanueva’s words certainly are poignant on multiple levels, but he couldn’t be more spot on as it pertains to playing football.
When you hear a lot of talk about a left tackle, it is typically for all the wrong reasons. Sure, there are players like Jonathan Ogden who are so dominant they deserve praise for all the good they do, but for the most part if you are talking about a left tackle it is because they are getting beat.
Or, as Villanueva puts it, when you hear a lot of talk circulating about a tackle, it is because something is happening. In this regard it is typically the opposition getting to the quarterback. Lucky for Villanueva, the offensive line and Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have done a phenomenal job of not being talked about for all the wrong reasons.
Through 13 games, the Steelers’ offensive line has surrendered just 11 sacks on the season. Dating back to their Week 8 game vs. the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, the Steelers have only given up one sack to Roethlisberger. A tremendous feat in and of itself.
How will the Steelers’ offensive line perform down the stretch? I don’t think any fan will be concerned with the team’s ability to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright. 13 games has proven they are more than capable of handling that task. However, the running game could use a spark, and this could be ignited by the men up front. Heading into Week 15 the Steelers average just 89 yards per game on the ground, which is ranked 31st, only behind the Houston Texans.
For all the good the Steelers offensive line has done in the pass blocking category, their run blocking has been horrendous. Let’s hope the Steelers’ offensive line doesn’t get talked about much down the stretch, because in Villanueva’s terms, that means good things are happening.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15 on Monday Night Football.