Former Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva was introduced to the Baltimore media on Wednesday after signing a two-year, $14 million contract with the team on Tuesday, and it didn’t take long for his former team to come up.
Villanueva said the Steelers let him know right after the season that he wouldn’t be returning to Pittsburgh, despite media speculation late into free agency that he could return to the Steelers, but said he considered the Steelers to be a “class act” organization and felt no ill will toward his former club.
“Pittsburgh has always been a class act organization,” he said. “They let me know that I was not coming back to the team very shortly after the season.”
After he knew he wasn’t coming back to Pittsburgh, Villanueva wanted to find the same kind of fit he had with the Steelers: a spot on a well-respected franchise with quality leadership. He thinks he found that in Baltimore, a team that despite the rivalry, was admired from afar by those in Pittsburgh.
“I’m an undrafted player,” Villanueva said. “I’ll always have that title attached to my name and that title attached to your journey. It’s interested in the NFL, you get these labels, if you’re a first-rounder or top 10 — good college players always talk about the SEC that the division that all the good players go to. So for me, coming from a small school, undrafted, I just had the urge to try to get on an NFL team.
“So obviously, if it’s a good team like the Ravens, a great organization that has been respected across the NFL and especially from the Steelers building, it wasn’t really a tough decision.”
"If it's a good team like the Ravens… it wasn't really a tough decision." Alejandro Villanueva pic.twitter.com/C6zmTCuYBe
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) May 5, 2021
While Villanueva was complimentary of his former club in generally, one of his comments seemed like a jab at Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
When asked about making the transition from playing left tackle with the Steelers to right tackle in Baltimore, Villanueva said that the biggest transition was not moving from left to right, but from the Steelers pass-heavy scheme to the run-first Baltimore playbook.
“I think the transition is going to be more to the playbook of the Ravens than it is going to be from left tackle to right tackle, because so many plays are so different,” he said. “As you probably know, in Pittsburgh, we threw the ball a lot from a two-point stance. We had the vertical set. We’re trying to sort all the blitzers that were coming from Baltimore in all different formations and whatnot.
“So this playbook is a lot more what I used to do in college. It doesn’t matter if you put your right or left hand down, you’ve got to be coming off the ball and taking good angles. For me, that’s the transition that I want to get back into. The left or right tackle, it’s not as important, because we’re not going to be — hopefully — throwing the ball 800 times a season.”
When asked if running the ball more can be a good thing, he said it is — for a lineman.
“I’m assuming it’s not as much fun for the receivers because they’re not getting all of the catches, they’re making the Tik Toks and and they’re having fun on their social media,” Villanueva said with a smile, referencing Smith-Schuster’s controversial practice of dancing on stadium logos before games for social media videos last season.
It’ll be interesting to see if Villanueva’s move to Baltimore will provide any more fuel for an already-intense rivalry between the clubs when the Steelers and Ravens meet on the field this season.