Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva will make his second career playoff start Sunday against the Denver Broncos and while he’s already a very imposing looking player because of his size, safety Mike Mitchell let it be known in a recent interview on ESPN’s “Football Today” podcast why he would never want to mix it up with the offensive lineman.
“Al’s probably one of the few guys in the National Football League that’s killed someone, right? So just off that one nugget of knowledge right there, that’s someone that I really don’t want to deal with,” started Mitchell. “But to repeat the story, we were in Cincinnati the first time, obviously we played them three times, two times at their place. So it was the first time we played them to try to keep our season alive. It was hostile both times, probably the playoff game was the worst it was. But the first game, they were throwing stuff, they were yapping and we are all just getting hyped in the tunnel and I’m standing next to big Al and he looks down and then looks at me like what’s going on and he’s like, ‘Man this is pretty cool.’
“And I think to myself that Al’s a young guy, this is his first year really getting some starts, he’s really nervous and I’m like, ‘Yeah, man, it is pretty cool.’ And then he looks back at me, and there was a slight pause, and says, ‘But this isn’t as cool as going to go kill someone at night.’ And I heard it and I like looked up real slow and paused and I was like, this dude is ready to take it to a place that’s utterly different. He’s in a totally different mindset. I’m over here thinking about a great hostile environment and how we’re about to play a football game and this dude is thinking about covert missions he was pulling off at night and making comparisons. And I’m like, this is defiantly a bad dude and I’m glad he’s on my side for sure.”
In case you already didn’t know it, Villanueva is a former Army Ranger captain, who did three tours in Afghanistan.
“We have a lot of respect for Al,” said Mitchell. “We have a lot of love for him for what he’s done for our country and what he’s also done for our team.”
That’s a great story for sure and Villanueva certainly seems to have found a home in Pittsburgh for the next several years due to his play this season. He was forced into action after starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum went down with a knee injury in Week 6 and has been the starter on the blindside ever since. Villanueva spent all of the 2014 season on the Steelers practice squad while he worked on putting on more weight in addition to honing his lineman skills under the watchful eye of coach Mike Munchak. He is currently under contract through the 2016 season and will easily be retained at that point due to him scheduled to be an exclusive rights free agent.