In the biggest development — so far — on a surreal Sunday of protests around the NFL, the Steelers opted to remain in the locker room during the national anthem prior to their game against the Bears at Soldier Field.
All except for one Steeler, that is. Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a U.S. Army Ranger who won a Bronze Star during three tours in Afghanistan, stood by himself outside the Steelers locker room tunnel, hand over his heart.
Alejandro Villanueva, a veteran who served in the Army, was the lone Steelers player to come out during the national anthem. pic.twitter.com/dhatmA3GMm— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 24, 2017
Villanueva's act quickly lit up social media.
This man is a true hero. Thank you for your service, Alejandro Villanueva. pic.twitter.com/R9led9NeBz— Eryn McCabe (@Eryn_NotErin) September 24, 2017
Respect to Alejandro Villanueva for being the only classy one on the @steelers team showing respect to the flag— William Costello (@billycostello15) September 24, 2017
I think Alejandro Villanueva is my new favorite Steeler, just sayin.— laura✨ (@lauradallas11) September 24, 2017
Villanueva, who attended the U.S. Military Academy, played briefly with the Eagles before joining the Steelers in 2014.