Villanueva was the only Steeler to stand visible during the national anthem, as the rest of the team remained in the tunnel.
Alejandro Villanueva made headlines on Sunday by being the only Steeler visible during the national anthem before the team's game against the Bears. The rest of the Steelers all stayed inside the tunnel during the anthem, a move coach Mike Tomlin said aimed to convey unity rather than disrespect for the flag.
Villanueva, who was an Army ranger and served in Afghanistan, stood just outside the tunnel with his hand on his heart during the anthem. On Monday, he told reporters that he felt he never intended to stand alone and ended up doing so by accident.
Villanueva said he asked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to change the Steelers' original plan of staying in the locker room during the anthem. Villanueva wanted to join the team's captains (Villanueva is not a captain) and stand just outside the tunnel for the anthem, but the plan did not work because of "chaos" in a small area.
"I made coach Tomlin look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only. I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only.”
Villanueva said he did not intend to show up his teammates, nor to defy the organization's decision. Quite the opposite, actually.
"Unfortunately, I threw (my teammates) under the bus, unintentionally."
As for his views on Trump's comments that injected new life into national anthem protests and brought the debate to the national forefront, Villanueva said:
"I don't have anything to say about the commander in chief and his decisions...nothing to comment about what the president says."
Roethlisberger released a statement on his website on Monday that struck a markedly different tone, saying he wished the organization approached the situation differently and that he doesn't think the anthem is a time for protest.
"As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem," the statement reads. "I personally don't believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that have made the ultimate sacrifice."