Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former U.S. Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, explained to reporters Monday why he didn't stay with his teammates during the national anthem prior to Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears:

I would say that my personal thoughts about this situation is that regardless of this plan, very few players knew that I was going to the tunnel because I only talked to the team leadership and so because of that I didn't give them an opportunity to stand with me during the national anthem. That is the very embarrassing part on my end in what transpires. Because when everybody sees an image of me standing by myself everybody thinks that the team and the Steelers are not behind me and that's absolutely wrong. It's quite the opposite, actually the entire team would have been out there with me even the ones that wanted to take a knee would have been out there with me had they known these extreme circumstances that at Soldier Field in the heat of the moment when I've got soldiers, wounded veterans texting me that I have to be out there. Then I think everything would have been put aside from every single one of my teammates no doubt. So because of that, I've made coach [Mike] Tomlin look bad and that is my fault and my fault only. I've made my teammates look bad and that is my fault and my fault only and I've made the Steelers also look bad and that is my fault and my fault only. So unwilling I've made a mistake and I've talked to my teammates about the situation. Hopefully they understand it. If they don't I still have to live with it because the nature of this debate is causing a lot of very heated reactions from fans from players and it's underserving to all the players and coaches from this organization.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger explained how Villaneuva got separated from his teammates in the tunnel leading to the field.

"There was a flag or something coming off the field so there was a bunch of Bears fans coming off the field holding that, going in front of us, so it kind of held us up. Al was down at the end of the tunnel where we had told him we were going to come at the end of the tunnel. We were going to go to the tunnel to stand together. By time all the chaos kind of happened in front of us, as we started to take our step the anthem started, so we stopped to show respect for the anthem. I was talking to Cam [Heyward]. I regret not going down to Al. But Al didn't know we were not there. Al thought we were standing with him. There was no division there. We were 20 feet behind him ... There was no division there. Just is the way it appeared through pictures and camera stuff."

Steelers players decided during a team meeting Saturday they would not go onto the field during the anthem. Steelers coaches, including Tomlin, stood on the sideline during the anthem. Villanueva said he spoke to Roethlisberger on Saturday about leading the Steelers onto the field alongside the team captains and that the quarterback agreed to it.

Villanueva's jersey has become the highest-selling jersey on Shop.NFL.com since Sunday.

Roethlisberger released a statement Monday, saying he wished the Steelers "approached it differently."

I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team's decision to remain in the tunnel for the national anthem yesterday. The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting.

As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the anthem. I personally don't believe the anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.

I appreciate the unique diversity in my team and throughout the league and completely support the call for social change and the pursuit of true equality. Moving forward, I hope standing for the anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe. God bless those men and women.

Tomlin is expected to speak with the media Tuesday at noon ET.