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Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva lashes out at media

Joe Rutter
| Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, 8:54 p.m.
Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva of the Steelers listens to the national anthem before a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Oct. 1, 2017 in Baltimore.
Getty Images North America
Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva of the Steelers listens to the national anthem before a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Oct. 1, 2017 in Baltimore.

BALTIMORE — No Steelers player was happier when the ball was snapped Sunday than left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

And none was more upset with the media after the game against the Baltimore Ravens concluded.

Following the Steelers' 26-9 win at M&T Bank Stadium, Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan, lashed out about the media's portrayal of last weekend's national anthem protests.

"To wake up in the morning and see a face of Coach (Mike) Tomlin and a face of a soldier pitted against each other is completely unacceptable from the media," Villanueva said. "To use me as a tool to push agendas and to push messages, that's completely unacceptable. I understand you guys are trying to make your money, but in our locker room, we are trying to win football games, and we are trying to be the best we can.

"I'm very close to my values and how the team perceives me, so I am pretty happy to be a member of Steelers Nation trying to represent the city of Pittsburgh."

Villanueva became a folk hero and garnered unwanted national attention amid the anthem controversy when he was the lone Steelers player to be on the field last Sunday during the "Star Spangled Banner" at Soldier Field in Chicago. Sales of his jersey skyrocketed in the days after the game.

"I'm not a hero," Villanueva said. "I didn't do anything in the military that was outstanding. If you were to compare me to my peers, I was just average. … It was just a very unfortunate chain of events that I think I tried to handle as best as I was able."

Against the Ravens, Villanueva was part of an offensive line that allowed just one sack of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and contributed to Le'Veon Bell's season-high 144 rushing yards.

But Villanueva committed what he called a "stupid personal foul penalty," when he head-butted Ravens linebacker Kamalei Correa in the second quarter. For a play that started on the Ravens 12, the Steelers had the ball placed at the 31 after Villanueva's penalty, and they had to settle for Chris Boswell's 49-yard field goal that provided a 6-0 lead.

Villanueva was matched up against Ravens' pass-rush specialist Terrell Suggs, who finished with just an assisted tackle.

"What a better week to do it than against Terrell Suggs, one of the best in the business," Villanueva said. "Today was a good opportunity for me to get back to football. I thought my play improved significantly, which I had been working very hard on doing."

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