Steelers’ Al Villanueva Pays Tribute to War Hero on Helmet


Getty Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

On Monday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that all of the team’s players would wear a decal with the name of police shooting victim Antwon Rose Jr. on the back of their helmets—for the game against the New York Giants and for the rest of the 2020 season.

As it turns out, one player—left tackle Alejandro Villanueva—covered up Antwon Rose Jr.’s name and honored the late Alwyn Cashe, a former Army Ranger who died in November 2005—at the age of 35—of injuries suffered while fighting in Iraq. Cashe was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his heroism.

According to Chris Adamski, sports reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Villanueva got permission to make the change from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

“As an organization, and myself as the head coach of the organization, we’re going to support our players however they choose to participate and express themselves, or to not participate and express themselves, as long as they do so thoughtfully and with class,” Tomlin told the media on Tuesday.

About Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe

Last month the Washington Post reported that the Pentagon was “poised” to posthumously award the Medal of Honor to Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, “who suffered fatal burns while repeatedly entering a burning vehicle in Iraq to save the lives of fellow soldiers.”

The fatal incident occurred in October 2005 when Cashe’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled over an improvised explosive device, which caused the vehicle to burst into flames. In the process of rescuing fellow soldiers from the burning vehicle he suffered burns over 72 percent of his body. He died the following month at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, which has a facility for treating burns suffered in combat.

According to the Post, Cashe “has long been seen within the military community as one of the great heroes of the Iraq War, and he was recommend this year as a potential new eponym for one of 10 Army installations that are named after Confederate military officers who fought to preserve slavery.”

If Cashe receives the Medal of Honor, he would be the first Black service member who served in Iraq or Afghanistan to be so honored.

About Steelers Left Tackle Alejandro Villanueva

Al Villanueva, a graduate of West Point Military Academy, is a former Army Ranger himself. While in the military he served with the Tenth Mountain Division and fought in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.

Villaneuva has been Pittsburgh’s starting left tackle since 2015. He is in the final year of the contract he signed in the summer of 2017 and is scheduled to become a free agent in 2021.

Villaneuva originally came into the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent. Though he played wide receiver at Army, the Eagles attempted to develop Villanueva into a defensive lineman. He spent the entire 2014 season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, during which time the Steelers transitioned him to offensive tackle.

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