It’s a pretty easy guess as to what games new Baltimore Ravens’ OT Alejandro Villanueva will circle on his calendar when the NFL releases the 2021 schedule next week. The two against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Speaking with the media a day after signing, Villanueva said he partly chose Baltimore so he could go against the Steelers twice a season.
The tweet via Jamison Hensley.
Alejandro Villanueva said part of the motivation to come to the Ravens was playing AFC North football and playing the Steelers twice a year
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) May 5, 2021
Here’s the full quote.
“I knew the Ravens as a team, a team who plays hard, a team that plays AFC North-type football, and to get a chance to play the Steelers as well was something that motivated me coming here for sure.”
Baltimore signed Villanueva after trading away Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs after Brown Jr. requested a trade. Villanueva will serve as injury protection for Ronnie Stanley, who suffered a gruesome ankle injury against Pittsburgh last season. When Stanley is healthy, Villanueva will slide to right tackle. That means he’ll get to play T.J. Watt twice a year, too.
Villanueva then called new teammate Kevin Zeitler an upgrade over David DeCastro. We don’t yet have audio to hear if it was a tongue-in-cheek comment. Villanueva and DeCastro were good friends together in Pittsburgh.
Watching the call, Villanueva said it with a smile and laugh from the media, so this is some good-natured ribbing.
Longtime #Steelers LT Al Villanueva doesn't even need to put his new #Ravens uniform on to show he has the necessary trash-talking down. Asked about losing his longtime commuting buddy, G David DeCastro, he says, "I'm sure Kevin Zeitler will be an upgrade."
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 5, 2021
Villanueva did say he enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh, though the team made it clear they were ready to move on.
“Pittsburgh has always been a class act organization,” he said. “They let me know I was not coming back to the team very shortly after the season.”
— Steelers Depot 🧐 (@Steelersdepot) May 5, 2021
Pittsburgh coached Villanueva from a raw defensive linemen about to fall out of the league into a starting left tackle. He made 90 such starts for the Steelers, all at left tackle, before hitting free agency this season. His market was cooler than expected, but he still signed a two-year, $14 million pact with the Ravens. Because the signing occurred yesterday, the Steelers will not be eligible to receive a 2022 comp pick.
With that in mind and Villanueva’s comments, there’s going to be even extra fuel and bulletin board material whenever these two teams play each other for the first time. We’ll find out the exact schedule May 12th.