Steelers’ Alejandro Villanueva Pays Tribute to Late Military Vet in NFL Season Opener, Twitter Sounds Off

by Josh Lanier
Steelers' Alejandro Villanueva Honors Fallen Military Hero on Monday Night Football

Alejandro Villanueva, a former U.S. Army Ranger, broke rank with his teammates on Monday Night Football to honor a fallen soldier. The Pittsburgh Steelers lineman was supposed to wear Antwon Rose Jr.‘s name on the back of his helmet. However, he chose to honor a soldier killed while in serving in Afghanistan.

With permission from the team, Villanueva wrote Alwyn Cashe’s name on his helmet. An IED killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Cashe in 2005 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Military Times. He suffered severe burns over most of his body trying to save his fellow soldiers and was awarded the Silver Star.

The rest of the Steelers wore Rose’s name on their helmets. They plan to do so for the rest of the season. An East Pittsburgh, Pa., police officer fatally shot Rose, a black 17-year-old, last year, according to the New York Times.

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin spoke on the helmet issue at a Tuesday press conference, CBS reported.

“As an organization, and myself as the head coach of the organization, we’re going to support our players however they choose to participate and express themselves, or to not participate or not express themselves, as long as they do so thoughtfully and with class.”

Villanueva hasn’t responded for comment.

The NFL said in June it would let players use helmet badges and decals to “honor victims of systemic racism, victims of police brutality, and social justice heroes.”