After former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva signed a two-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens in early May, he openly admitted that his options in free agency were “not plenty.” Nevertheless, the Ravens inked him to a two-year, $14 million contract, one that includes $8 million fully guaranteed.
It’s only one game, but it’s possible the Ravens are already regretting that decision.
On Monday night, September 13, Villanueva made his Ravens debut versus the Las Vegas Raiders, and it was obvious that the man affectionately known in Pittsburgh as “Big Al” was struggling mightily against Raiders’ edge rusher Maxx Crosby.
Twitter Reactions Came Pouring In
Early on, it was crystal clear that Villanueva — now 32 years old — was going to be in for a long night, and not just on the field.
Daniel Valente of The Score likened Villanueva to an undercover agent, one still loyal to the Steelers.
Meanwhile, Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tried to be diplomatic, tweeting that the two-time Pro Bowler “has been noticeably bad.”
But many other observers were not so gentle.
Sean Gentille, who covers the NHL for The Athletic, wrote, “ravens front office watching Al Villanueva” and paired it with a video clip of actor David Cross in “Arrested Development” saying, “I think I’d like my money back.”
Chris Mueller of 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh went the obvious route, posting a photo of a turnstile.
And the Barstool Yinzers took multiple opportunities to gloat on Twitter:
In the end, Crosby racked up nine quarterback pressures (per Next Gen Stats), along with eight quarterback hits and two sacks, a big reason that the Raiders won 33-27 in overtime.
On the other hand, it wasn’t all bad for Villanueva. For instance, he made a key block that opened a lane for Ravens running back Ty’Son Williams to score a 35-yard touchdown near the end of the first quarter. Williams, making his NFL debut, had nine carries for 65 yards and the touchdown, an average of 7.2 yards per carry.
A Hero to Many in Pittsburgh & Beyond
Of course, Villanueva will always be respected and fondly remembered in Pittsburgh for his years of military service and for the 90 consecutive games he started for the Steelers at left tackle between 2015 and 2020.
Recall that Villanueva, a graduate of West Point Military Academy, did three tours of duty in Afghanistan before coming into the NFL as an undrafted free agent and earning a role as an always-available starting left tackle.
Yet, the Steelers made no effort to re-sign him when he hit unrestricted free agency earlier this year, hence the contract with the Ravens.
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Villanueva vs. Watt?
But Monday night’s performance explains why countless Steelers fans took to Twitter saying they are looking forward to seeing how Steelers’ All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt will fare against Villanueva later this year.
As always, the AFC North rivals are scheduled to play each other twice this season, though not until December 5 in Pittsburgh and January 9 in Baltimore, by which time a lot could change.
Next up for the Steelers are the Raiders, who visit Pittsburgh for a Week 2 afternoon game at Heinz Field on Sunday, September 19.