There has never been any question Ben Roethlisberger is the leader of this team. But it’s always nice to hear it from his teammates. Especially when it comes from one of the big guys up front.
“He embodies all of the strength and courage you want to see in a great leader,” Alejandro Villanueva said of Ben in a great article on Steelers.com by Teresa Varley.
Villanueva told Varley what was going through his mind when he saw Roethlisberger sacked on the play that would wind up tearing ligaments in his shoulder, conceding that the line has to protect him better. Ben was sacked three times Saturday night and if he plays Sunday, will face a Denver Broncos pass rush that finished first in the league in sacks.
He was effusive in his praise for Ben, notable comments for someone who was a leader of men into combat.
“He is an extreme competitor. We are honored to follow him in this journey.”
Not many quarterbacks would’ve jumped back into the fire like Roethlisberger did, playing at a fraction of his health and barely able to fire the ball downfield. But like he’s done so many times before, he toughed it out and led his team to victory.
Villanueva also said that Roethlisberger is the type of guy who won’t scream and yell when he makes a mistake but rather encourage and motivate.
“When I get him hit, he is cheering me, encouraging me. He takes responsibility for everything the team does or fails to do and that is a definition of a leader, a definition I learned in the Army.”
To his credit, Villanueva hasn’t gotten Ben hit much lately. After a rocky start to the season, albeit an understandable one, his play is significantly improved. Mentally, you can see him reacting quicker to stunts and blitzes and his run blocking, which was barely average in the beginning, has gotten better over the last several weeks. He played an integral role in the team’s success Saturday versus the Cincinnati Bengals.
We’ll see how the offseason plays out but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team confidently move forward with Villanueva as their long-term left tackle.