3 takes from Villanueva

Gaining insight: Alejandro Villanueva is spending his offseason like most NFL players, working out and making sure he is prepared for the rigors of the upcoming season.

But what he will be doing that is a little bit different from the norm is Villanueva will be spending time watching film, not just of himself, but of other tackles in the NFL to watch their techniques. "One of the things I enjoy watching is other tackles in the NFL," said Villanueva. "I will probably watch every single game of a few tackles I like to watch and learn things they have done, how they approach games. I might have a few conversations with them to get some insight.

"At West Point they instilled curiosity in you, to ask questions so you can have a better understanding of your situation. So I am doing that. I gather information from around the NFL, and try to get myself as ready as possible."

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Doing their job:** Ben Roethlisberger was sacked only 17 times in 2016, the fewest of his career. And that credit has to go to the offensive line, even if they shy away from taking it and simply consider it doing their job.

"I personally take pride in executing to the best of my abilities for the expectations Coach (Mike) Munchak has for myself and I think that is the same for everybody," said Villanueva. "There are a lot of factors that go in with the number of sacks you give up. No matter how many it is, it's very technical and hard to measure. Protecting Ben is very important. He is our quarterback. He is a guy we respect, love to play for, he is a guy that inspires us, drives the offense, the team. We understand the urgency to protect him.

"I think other teams want to hit him because he is 'Big Ben' and he is going to extend plays and go the extra mile to try and win games. He puts his health on the line. He puts his emotions on the line, his reputation to get one more first down. We have to feel that same sense of urgency that Ben has and that starts with protecting him and always having his back regardless of the circumstances."

  • School is in session: Villanueva might be one of the most diverse Steelers' players on the roster. He is a former Army Ranger, he battled a tough road to make it on an NFL roster, and he is still a student, working on earning his MBA from Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business. Villanueva takes classes year round, yes, even in season, as he is closing in on that amazing accomplishment.

"It's a part-time program," explained Villanueva. "I go from 6-10 at night on Monday and Tuesday. During the season we had that winning streak and it helped because we got a day off. It's not extremely hard.

"I think training camp was the hardest. Taking classes in camp and competing for a roster spot. That was the most challenging part.  I would go to classes during camp. Tuesdays were normally the day off so it worked. I would go to class and come back to Latrobe.

"You look at the chances of making it in the NFL and it's very slim, so I will always have this. It's been a journey."

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