OWINGS MILLION, Md. (WJZ) – Alejandro Villanueva has no idea how he will feel when he arrives at Heinz Field, his professional home for the first six years of his NFL career.
“We’ll see when I cross that bridge,” he told reporters Wednesday.
Of course, there will be some emotion to Raven’s left tackle. Pittsburgh is the city of Villanueva, son of an officer in the Spanish Navy, lived the longest and where he had all his children. He calls Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin a “father” and says he often mimics Tomlin’s vocal rhythms when talking to his kids.
Steelers had a chance on Villanueva, a former US Ranger who served three tours of Afghanistan, by including him in their practice team in 2014, when he was 26 years old. Villanueva, who lined up in a contested position of attack, defense and scalability at West Point, played every game in the team’s attack from 2015 to 2020 and started every game in the last 5 years. He was twice selected to the Pro Bowl in black and gold.
With the Ravens taking on the Steelers this Sunday, he finds himself on the other side of the rivalry between the AFC North rivals.
“Neither of these teams want to go head-to-head with the other, so they’ll always be competing for number one, number two,” he said.
But for him, it was nothing like the matches between the two Spanish teams Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, a match simply known as El Clásico.
“For me, it’s a competition,” he said. “It’s a rivalry that’s dividing the country.”
Villanueva commented that both the Ravens and the Steelers were tough on the ball and defensive, and the fans and media really took notice of that.
But he has reduced any rivalry between Baltimore and Pittsburgh to “two good teams that often play each other twice a year, usually in cold weather.”
The two fan bases are both in working-class towns, “so everybody wants to be the greenest fan, if you want to,” he said.
“Unfortunately, I can’t provide any more hype to the competition,” he said.
Aside from his history for the Ravens-Steelers, Villanueva refused to provide any bulletin board material for his former team, who have lost their last two games.
Tomlin is one of the best minds in football, he said, and Pittsburgh’s defense still has great players like full-back Devin Bush, full-back Cam Heyward and full-back Joe Haden, to name a few. another name. (Another player he named, full-back TJ Watt, is recently booked on the reserve list / COVID-19.)
“The profile, the stats, they’re great at writing articles and hyping and demeaning teams. But for us as players and for us as a team, we understood that we were up against a very, very good defense, one of the best in the NFL.” he say. “It’s going to be a huge test for us, regardless of what they’ve done in the past.”
The 33-year-old has been amazed by the tenacity of Harbaugh and Tomlin, both of whom have enjoyed long careers and won more than 200 games while countless other head coaches have been shown the door. So what has allowed them to have such sustained success?
Obviously, that’s a long answer.
“I can’t tell you that, unless you offer me a coffee and a cigarette,” he quips.
https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2021/12/01/now-in-purple-and-black-villanueva-reflects-on-ravens-steelers-rivalry-but-its-no-el-clasico-he-says/ Now in purple and black, Villanueva reflects on Raven-Steelers’ rival. But it’s not El Clásico, he says – CBS Baltimore