Former Army Ranger Villanueva has long day for Steelers in first NFL start

Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva helping quarterback Landry Jones off the ground after he was beaten for a sack by Tamba Hali.

John Rieger

Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva knew he would have his hands full in his first NFL start with Chiefs pass rusher Tamba Hali. Unfortunately for him, Hali’s two sacks came at the most inopportune time on Sunday.

Hali’s first sack ruined the Steelers’ best chance to take the lead in the second half. Down 16-10 at the Chiefs 10-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Villanueva and guard Ramon Foster got their lines crossed as Hali stunted to the inside and got a free shot at Landry Jones to end the drive. The Steelers settled for a field goal and never got any closer.

Hali put the nail in the coffin with a strip-sack of Jones on Pittsburgh’s final drive with the score 23-13. He went right around Villanueva’s left with a speed rush and knocked the ball loose just as Jones was preparing to throw. The Chiefs recovered just before the two-minute warning and the game was over. 

“The whole game, they kept scheming (outside linebacker Justin) Houston,” inside linebacker Derrick Johnson said via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Tamba was, like, ‘Hey, if you’re going to do that, just hold it up on the back end and I’ll come through, I’m going to get there.’ And he was beating his guy all day.”

"When the game is on the line, and you give up a sack on a drive you can win the game, it is a pretty terrible feeling,” Villanueva said. “I have to play better and understand the team relies on me when it matters the most, and I didn’t do that."

With starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum out for the season, Villanueva has no choice but to get better. Fellow offensive tackle Mike Adams is still recovering from offseason back surgery and there’s a chance he may not be able to return at all this season. 


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