Just one day after announcing his retirement, former Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva provided yet another fantastic interview talking all things football and the world itself on 93.7 The Fan’s Cook & Joe Show with Joe Starkey and Ron Cook.
Though he said he won’t miss the game of football at all, Villanueva certainly provided some great insight regarding the differences protecting former Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and dynamic Ravens’ signal caller Lamar Jackson.
Of course, Roethlisberger late in his career with Villanueva at left tackle was much more of a pocket passer that got the ball out quickly and rarely extended plays with his legs, while Jackson was known more for the plays he makes with his legs rather than his right arm, especially after winning an MVP award three seasons ago.
No rivalry is more emotional than Steelers/Ravens. Final play of the game. Don't need to see the throw. Just need to see the reactions. Heyward hands in the air, Villanueva slamming his body to the ground.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 8, 2021
That type of contrast going from Roethlisberger for seven seasons to Jackson for one can be tough on an offensive lineman, especially one like Villanueva. However, the veteran offensive lineman said it was “pretty cool” to do it, even though he’s coming off of a year in which he posted the second-worst offensive grade of his career, and the worst pass blocking grade of his career, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I mean, Ben, I played with him for so many years and we had such a good relationship as a line with him,” Villanueva said, according to audio from 93.7 The Fan. “Our families growing together, we developed a friendship that was strong outside of the football field. Playing with Lamar was really fun. I mean, it’s not…a typical quarterback, you know, such as Ben…stepping in the pocket, step up, make the throw and whatnot, but he does play with a lot of energy and, and he sort of…truly plays street ball.
“Great kid, amazing teammate,” Villanueva added. “That was really fun, and playing with somebody that was, you know, a lot older than you, in terms of, you know, Ben Roethlisberger and you see the maturity that he has, and then someone as, as young and as hungry as Lamar. So the contrast was pretty cool. And he’s a great kid and, and obviously it’s gonna be really exciting to watch him in the future as well.”
Villanueva had to adjust on the fly to Jackson’s style, which can be difficult for even the best offensive linemen to play with, considering his tendency to pull the football down and run, or scramble around in the pocket extending the play for seconds on end, forcing linemen to hold their blocks that much longer.
Alejandro Villanueva's chop/snatch & trap was one of my favorite moves to watch from any offensive linemen. He was so long and strong. You tried to stab him, he just cut you down.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) March 9, 2022
He made it work though, even with the tough grading from PFF, helping solidify the left tackle position for the season with Ronnie Stanley out for the year and Orlando Brown Jr. traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Of course, it’s also fitting too that in his final game of the 2021 season against the Steelers, Villanueva posted his best pass blocking grade from PFF on the year, recording an 85.0 while protecting Tyler Huntley.