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Steelers sign Alejandro Villanueva to 4-year, $24M deal

The incredible NFL journey of Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva hit a high mark Thursday with a new four-year contract.

The Steelers announced the deal for the 28-year-old, who had previously passed on signing a one-year tender offer as an exclusive rights free agent. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports the deal is worth $24 million.

A Bronze Star recipient during his time as an Army Ranger, Villanueva found his way into professional football for good as a 25-year-old defensive end in 2014 with the Philadelphia Eagles following three tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says he spotted Villanueva during a preseason game because of the way he stood during the national anthem, and the team later picked Villanueva up and converted him to tackle, where he became a starter during the 2015 season. He's surprised many by stabilizing the position in Pittsburgh as part of one of the best offensive lines in football.

Pittsburgh returns all five starters of a group that ranked second in pass protection by Pro Football Focus in 2016, a far cry from early in Ben Roethlisberger's career when the quarterback was routinely under siege.

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