Alejandro Villanueva appearance surprised Steelers during anthem

Alejandro Villanueva apologizes for throwing Steeler teammates 'under the bus'

The Steelers opted to stay in the tunnel during the anthem on Sunday, while Villanueva, a former Army ranger, was the only one on the team to exit the tunnel and stand for the anthem. The 29-year old is a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan before returning to football (he played at Army) in 2014, signing first with the Eagles after a regional tryout and then with the Steelers. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star medal for valor and the Bronze Star medal for overseas service.

Villanueva's #78 jersey is now a top seller on the website Fanatics.com, alongside superstars like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Odell Beckham Jr.

The Steelers held team-wide discussions prior to their game on Sunday with players trying to reach an agreement on how they would conduct themselves during the anthem.

Asked what played into Villanueva's leaving the tunnel, defensive end Cam Heyward said: "I don't want to go into that, but we support our guy Al".

Thousands of fans applauded his actions on the field Sunday afternoon before the game against the Chicago Bears.

"We will not be divided by this", Tomlin told the Post-Gazette.

As the rest of his teammates stood in the shadows, however, Villanueva was about 20 feet in front of them, his hand over his heart, during the playing of the anthem. He did what any veteran would've done.

"Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team", Tomlin said. "And in this particular case, if I had been one of the Steelers sitting in the locker room and knew that my colleague, probably my friend was sitting on that tunnel by himself saluting the flag, and knew that he served his country in combat, I think that I'd feel like quite a coward sitting in that locker room by myself hiding away", Nicholson asserted.

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