Steelers sign war veteran Villanueva to practice squad

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The only player the Steelers signed to their practice squad who has not spent time with them this summer is a true war hero — 6-foot-9 Alejandro “Ali” Villanueva, a West Point graduate who spent three tours of duty in the Army in Afghanistan, where he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for valor.

Villanueva, who turns 26 in September, played football at West Point as a wide receiver, defensive lineman and offensive tackle. He signed in May with the Philadelphia Eagles as a defensive end, but the Steelers will use him on their offensive line. He was cut by the Eagles Aug. 23. He recently left active duty, but remains a member of the U.S. Army Rangers reserve unit and was promoted this year to the rank of captain.

He earned a Bronze Star for valor on his first tour in Afghanistan.

The other nine players the Steelers signed to their practice squad Sunday were released by the team in the past week, including two draft picks, cornerback Shaquille Richardson and tight end Rob Blanchflower.

Others signed to the practice squad, on which players earn $6,300 a week, are wide receivers Derek Moye and C.J. Goodwin, safety Ross Ventrone, defensive linemen Nick Williams and Josh Mauro, halfback Josh Harris and outside linebacker Howard Jones.

First Published August 31, 2014 3:14 PM

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