Alejandro Villanueva calls Steelers’ organization ‘special’

Alejandro Villanueva is thankful that his dream of becoming an NFL player has been realized in the city of Pittsburgh.

Alejandro Villanueva understands that football is a business. That being said, he realizes that he’s in a special place in Pittsburgh with the Steelers, an organization that treats its players like members of their family.

Villanueva, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan as part of the United States military prior to coming to Pittsburgh in 2015, recently praised the Steelers’ organization in an interview with Steelers.com.

“It’s very hard for me to trust someone when it comes to the path I took to the NFL,” said Villanueva, who was cut by the Eagles in 2014. “So many organizations have led me to believe I would make the team and then I got cut.

“In other organizations, they might know you, who you are. They might have heard of you, but they don’t value you as a person. They care about me here not as a veteran, not as a football player, not as a MBA candidate. They care about me as a person.”

After making the team’s 53-man roster as a backup, Villanueva was quickly summoned into action, replacing left tackle Kelvin Beachum after Beachum suffered a torn ACL six games into the 2015 season. Villanueva hasn’t missed a start since, as the former wide receiver at Army has made tremendous strides as Pittsburgh’s starting left tackle.

Villanueva credits a large measure of his success to offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who enjoyed a successful career as a Hall of Fame lineman.

“Mike Munchak is the greatest coach in the NFL because he is a very good person, he has values, and you can look up to him,” Villanueva said. “He is a gentleman. He is very respectful of other people. He cares about every single player. That is the fastest way to build trust, to have sincere and honest relationships with everybody.”

Villanueva’s admiration for the Steelers is reciprocated, something that head coach Mike Tomlin made clear when he was asked by ESPN if any of his players would protest the National Anthem prior to Pittsburgh’s opening season victory over the Redskins last September.

“I know all of our players will be standing out of respect for their teammate, Alejandro Villanueva,” Tomlin said.

While turnover and transition is unavoidable in the NFL, Villanueva is thankful that he’s with one of the most stable organizations in all of sports. He remains appreciative of the little things that has made Pittsburgh feel like home, as Villanueva looks to pay back the Steelers by helping the organization bring home its seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2017.

“It’s really easy for me to walk around this building and say hi to everybody and get to know everybody,” he said. “Once you have that trust in the organization, the organization tries to get the best out of you and that is what they are doing.

“This organization is special. It was different.”