Alejandro Villanueva stepped up in a huge manner at left tackle last season, learning a lot about himself and what it means to play on the Steelers offensive line.
Villanueva shared his thoughts on his season earlier this offseason, and now gives his take on a number of topics, including the Gold Jacket standard on the offensive line.
- On having a Hall of Fame player as his offensive line coach:
"You wouldn't know he is a Hall of Fame player. He's extremely hard to define. He is not a friend, but he is not a boss. He is a natural leader of the room. He's a guy you want to follow, a guy you want to do good things for. A guy who's seen everything and gives you the confidence whenever you make a mistake that it is something that happens with the job. I honestly think that's one thing that has made a difference in my life is having him as a coach. I would not have been able to play without his mentorship and the hard work I put in this year. I don't think there's a better offensive line coach in the NFL than Munch. His integrity and he's an unbelievable human being. I can't say enough about how good of a person he is and the values that he's instilled in all of us."
On stepping up and embracing the next man up mentality:**
"I think the thing about Coach (Mike) Tomlin is he's very truthful to himself and to the players he's transparent. He doesn't hide anything and he doesn't say anything if he doesn't mean it. I've listened to a lot of coaches in the NFL and obviously a lot of coaches have to say things to motivate players that they don't truly believe. Coach Tomlin actually believes in the next man up mentality. He believes in the development program to the practice squad. I'm a practice squad product.
"He believes in players stepping up and making plays and that gives you confidence. If you bring in a guy from the outside to do the job that will kill the confidence of the guy who has been waiting to step up. So when you hear the next man up and you actually get in those starting roles, it gives you the confidence of everything that he's ever talked about."
On the best advice he received from Ben Roethlisberger:
"I had a really bad game against Kansas City, and he knew that I was coming back, that I was going to be the tackle for the team. For a guy like Ben to come up to me and tell me that he trusts me. He told me that the first NFL pass he threw was intercepted, that things were going to be okay and he was going to work through it. That was huge. For him to be joking around with me in the huddle, for him to include me as part of the conversation, that meant that he had faith in the things I can do. He was counting on me to make sure I performed to a high standard so we could all succeed as a group."
On the expectations of playing on the Steelers offensive line:
"Maurkice Pouncey is the guy that sets the expectations for everybody on the offensive line. From an aggressive standpoint, to the way you play, to an assignment standpoint, to a demeanor standpoint. Once he sets the standard then you just try to fall into it and he'll make sure you play up to that standard. That's why the offensive line here with the Steelers is so special. Everybody sets the standard and obviously Coach Munch, his experience and his play is the No. 1 standard, the Gold Jacket standard and everybody just fights and keeps everybody accountable."