They used to call him “The Giant” – they being The Taliban. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva is still a giant, he’s just not fighting in Afghanistan anymore. His new fight is the ten-yard fight and the erstwhile U.S. Army second lieutenant’s new job is protecting the back of Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger. And judging by the team’s performance against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 8, 2018, he must be pretty good at it.
Before the game kicked off, Fox Sports caught a glimpse of Villanueva jogging over to the sidelines to greet some active duty and reserve troops. That’s when you can really understand why the Taliban gave him that nickname.
Villanueva is a West Point graduate and played collegiate football on the offensive line for the Army Black Knights. When photographed with other NFL players — who are all large human beings — his size doesn’t seem all that remarkable. It’s when he goes to the sidelines to visit U.S. troops that you can see just how huge he is compared to the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States – who are no strangers to working out themselves.
And that’s probably why the Steelers have him watching Big Ben’s back.
One of these two is nicknamed “Big,” the other one is Alejandro Villanueva.
On the field, Roethlisberger looks like he lives up to the nickname “Big Ben.” The Steelers QB is 6’5″ and 240 pounds, cutting a unique outline on the playing field. In comparison, Villanueva is 6’9″ and 320 pounds.
Villanueva is still dedicated to the traditions held dear by most military veterans. During the 2017-2018 season, he created a row by leaving the locker room for the national anthem, leaving the rest of his team inside, a decision he later regretted. When sales of his jersey spiked in response to that action, it became the most popular jersey in the league. The former Army Ranger donated the proceeds of jersey sales to the USO and veteran-related nonprofits in AFC North cities, as he always has.
That consistency defines Alejandro Villanueva. He wasn’t just visiting troops before the Steelers-Panthers game because of the NFL’s “Salute to Service” month or any special event. He always goes to shake hands with visiting troops before every game, home or away.
Just for fun, watch Villanueva manhandle legendary Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is 6’3″ and 265 pounds and is number 19 on the all-time QB sack records. Villanueva chops him down like he’s made of balsa wood.
Rangers lead the way.