On Tuesday longtime Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villenueva agreed two a two-year, $14 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Hence, Wednesday’s introductory press conference with the Baltimore media, in which he talked at length (and openly) about everything from making the transition from the military to civilian life, to his time with the Steelers, to what he expects it will be like to block for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and function in Baltimore’s run-oriented offense.
But to hear the media interpret his words, you’d think that Villanueva was taking shots at the Steelers organization left and right, and that the decision to sign with the Ravens was driven by the opportunity to go against his former team twice a year.
Yet if you watch the 23-minute press conference in its entirety … well, you first need to get over the fact that Villanueva looks about 10 years younger now that he’s clean shaven. As for the notion that he signed with the Ravens because he’s driven to go against the Steelers, well, that’s not quite true.
Villanueva’s Options in Free Agency Were “Not Plenty”
“Pittsburgh has always been a class act organization and they let me know that I was not coming back very shortly after the season,” said Villanueva, early in the press conference. As such, he consulted with his agent about the possibilities going forward and admitted, “for me, the options were not plenty.”
Not that the Ravens were an unattractive destination, or that he wasn’t mindful of the audience he was speaking to during the press conference.
“The fact that I knew the Ravens as a team that plays hard and plays AFC North-type football—and that I get a chance to play against the Steelers as well—was something that motivated me to come here for sure,” he said.
However, it does sound as if he’s looking forward to getting away from Pittsburgh’s pass-heavy offense.
“You don’t have a lot of angst when the team is running the ball well,” he explained. “When you have to pass the ball, especially like we had to do last year, it involves an incredible amount of pressure because you know the pass rushers can get in a rhythm. You are going to start going against a player like [Cleveland Browns edge rusher] Myles Garrett and he is going to get 10-15 passes in a row to set up moves to be able to attack every single angle. He has 50-60 snaps to try everything he wants to do on you. So it becomes very stressful….
“For us as an offensive line in Pittsburgh last year it was incredibly challenging that we knew we had to go with these game plans that involved potentially passing the ball the entire game,” he said. “When you have a balanced offense or when you run the ball, it’s obviously better for the offensive line.”
It was at this point that he took the opportunity to rib Pittsburgh’s wide receivers, particularly JuJu Smith-Schuster, saying, “I’m assuming it’s not as fun for the wide receivers because they are not getting all the catches and the TikTok’s and having fun on their social media,” with TikTok, Instagram and other social media platforms being things that Villanueva steers clear of.
In fact, at the beginning of the presser he indicated that he doesn’t really know how Steelers fans have responded to the news of him signing with the Ravens, as he has “very little communication with the outside world, so it’s a little tough for me down in south Florida to hear from Steelers fans.”
Kevin Zeitler “An Upgrade” Over David DeCastro?
Last but not least, Villanueva was also asked about who he is going to drive to work with in Baltimore, now that he will no longer be commuting with Steelers right tackle David DeCastro, which he did for many years.
“I think [new Ravens offensive guard] Kevin Zeitler is going to be an upgrade from that,” he said, again with a smile but without further elaboration.
As for whether he’ll be playing left or right tackle with the Ravens, Villanueva indicated he’s fine with playing either position.
“The left or right tackle [issue] is not as important because we are hopefully not going to be throwing the ball 800 times a season,” he said at one point.
“I’m just an able body,” he concluded. “If they want me to line up at wideout [as he did in college at Army] and catch some balls and take away targets from [Ravens tight end Mark] Andrews, then I’ll do that as well, obviously.”
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