Villanueva: 'Chance to Play Against Steelers' Was Motivating Factor to Join Ravens

Newly signed tackle will help anchor the line.

Alejandro Villanueva will still get a chance to see his former team at least twice per year.

He'll also get the opportunity to be on the other side of one of the NFL's best rivalries. 

The newly signed Ravens tackle spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. While Villanueva has no hard feelings toward his former team, he is looking to compete against them. 

"I just think that everybody makes business decisions," said Villanueva, who signed a two-year, $14 million deal with Baltimore. "The Steelers have to make their decisions, and then obviously myself, or my agent has to inform me of what my options are in the future. I’m not sure. You’d have to ask the Steelers and their front office, but I’m sure that there were many factors involving salary cap, the direction the team was going to and whatnot. 

"For me, the options were not plenty. So, the fact that I knew the Ravens as a team, as a team that plays hard, a team that plays AFC North-type of football and I’d have a chance to play against the Steelers as well was something that motivated [me] coming here for sure.”

Villanueva has played in 96 games (90 starts) – all with the Steelers from 2015 through last year. He also started all seven postseason games in which he appeared with Pittsburgh.

Villanueva, a two-time Pro Bowler, is a durable lineman and has played in 96-consecutive regular-season games, tying Washington's Morgan Moses for the second-longest active streak among NFL tackles. He has started every game over the past five seasons (2016-20).

Last year, Villanueva started all 16 games at left tackle for the Steelers, helping block for an offense that completed an NFL-high 428 passes and recorded 35 touchdowns through the air — tied for the NFL’s sixth-most. He also helped Pittsburgh’s offensive line allow an NFL-low 14 sacks.

"Pittsburgh has always been a class-act organization and they let me know that I was not coming back to the team very shortly after the season," Villanueva said. "So, from there, I’m an undrafted player. I’ve always had that title attached to my name and that title attached to [my] journey. It’s interesting how in the NFL you get these labels of who you are, whether you’re a first-rounder or a Top 10. I’m sure college players always talk about the SEC as the division that all the good players go to. So, for me, being from a small school, undrafted, I’ve always had the urge to try to get with NFL teams. 

Prior to joining the NFL, Villanueva, a graduate of the United States Military Academy, spent 2010-13 as an active member of the Army, serving three tours of duty in Afghanistan. He was promoted to the ranking of Captain in April 2014.

Villanueva received numerous honors for his military service, including the Bronze Star Medal of Valor, the Ranger Tab, the Parachutist Badge, the Bronze Star Medal for overseas service, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Expert Infantryman’s Badge.

The Ravens honor the military each season. 

"Obviously, if it’s a good team like the Ravens, a great organization that has been respected across the NFL, especially from the Steelers building, it wasn’t really a tough decision," Villanueva said. "The meeting was phenomenal. I love [offensive line] Coach [Joe] D’Alessandris. He reminds me a lot of [former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line] Coach [Mike] Munchak. He coaches principles and coaches the minds of the players. 

"So, it’s something that I obviously look forward to getting into. Everybody from top to bottom was pretty awesome and as expected and as advertised.”