Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Capt. Alejandro Villaneuva

It was nice of Mike Tomlin to give a shout-out to veterans during his weekly news conference today and mention how the team is honoring Alejandro Villaneuva, a member of the Steelers' practice squad.

Capt. Alejandro Villanueva
Come on, Coach Tomlin, activate him already. Put Villanueva on the active roster. Surely he could play special teams, at the very least. Put him in to block kicks. The Steelers list Villaneuva (6'8", 277) as an offensive tackle, but it sounds like he has the makings of a tight end (and target in the red zone). He played defensive end, offensive tackle and wide receiver at Army.

As Army's offensive team captain, Villanueva started 12 games at wide receiver, led the team in receptions (34) and scored five touchdowns his senior season in 2009.

If you're going to have James Harrison run pass patterns in the end zone, then surely Villaneuva could do it, too.

Villaneuva happens to be an active member of the U.S. Army Rangers Reserve -- a captain, in fact --and a graduate of West Point who was awarded a Bronze Star for valor during one of his three tours of duty in Afghanistan. In 2011, as a 23-year-old lieutenant, he commanded a 38-person unit in combat.

You can read more about Villanueva in this excellent article by ESPN columnist Ashley Fox, titled, "Army Veteran's Long NFL Path."

Alejandro Villaneuva, as a wide receiver for Army.
Photos courtesy of MMQB.SI, which provided the following caption:

"As a receiver at Army, Alejandro Villanueva pulled in a one-handed grab against VMI in November 2009 (left) and soared against Navy a month later. (Frank DiBrango/Icon SMI and Matt Slocum/AP)"

Seriously: A 6'8", 277-lb. guy who has experience playing both tackle and wide receiver? To Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, that sounds like: "Tight end and red zone target."

"One of our teammates is a serviceman," Tomlin said. "West Point grad, Villanueva, we acknowledged him yesterday in our team meeting. We’ll honor him not only today but all week. We’ll carry him with us to Tennessee when we play this game this weekend, just as a sign or a token of our appreciation for not only the sacrifice that he had made, but all of the servicemen and women in our country."

Villanueva's honors for service include: the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Ranger Tab, the Parachutist Badge, the Bronze Star Medal for overseas service, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Expert Infantryman’s Badge.

Just promote him to the active roster already.

Soft Against the Run

Chris Ivory of the Jets
The Steelers' defense has been mostly soft against the run this year. That may not be news, but it is a big problem.

Five of 10 opponents have rushed for 100 yards or more, and four of those teams rushed for more than 150 yards. Not cool.

Isaiah Crowell of the Browns
Game 1 (Cleveland): 191 yards rushing

Game 2 (Baltimore): 157 yards rushing

Game 3 (Carolina): 42 yards rushing

Game 4 (Tampa Bay): 63 yards rushing

Game 5 (Jacksonville): 56 yards rushing

Game 6 (Cleveland): 158 yards rushing

Game 7 (Houston): 132 yards rushing

Game 8 (Indianapolis): 63 yards rushing (6.3 yards per rush)

Game 9 (Baltimore): 63 yards rushing

Game 10 (New York Jets): 150 yards rushing

The Roller Coaster Ride Continues

With the game in Nashville on Monday night, we get an extra day to mull over the Steelers' disgrace in New Jersey. Really, though, what's the point? Everybody knows what happened. That was about as poor a performance we've seen since, well, Sept. 28th, when the Steelers lost to Tampa Bay at Heinz Field.

Although everybody saw what happened in New Jersey, explaining why is another story. The Steelers are scraping for answers, just as the New York Giants are trying to figure out why they gave up 350 yards rushing in Seattle, and just as the woeful Chicago Bears are trying to stop the bleeding after surrendering 55 and 53 points their past two games.

Mike Mitchell, arriving too late.
Historically the Steelers haven't played well in Tennessee. The Steelers are 2-8 there. This year's Tennessee Titans are awful. Five of their seven losses have been by 14 points or more, and they average about eight penalties a game.

Then again, the New York Jets are a bad team, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are downright abysmal. And the Steelers managed to lose to both of those teams.

The trouble is, we don't know what we're going to get from the Steelers, week to week. All we know is that the Steelers have had the kind of up-and-down season of a team that can't be trusted to build on any kind of success.

A Good Read:

Bob Labriola of Steelers.com:  "Labriola on Loss to Jets"