Why the Steelers Alejandro Villanueva Hates Playing in the NFL

Some of the biggest athletes in all of professional sports are offensive linemen. One Pittsburgh Steeler, Alejandro Villanueva, doesn’t like it that way. 

Let’s take a closer look at why Villanueva hates playing in the NFL, and how important the weight of offensive linemen has become. 

Why Alejandro Villanueva hates playing in the NFL

Villanueva has played for the Steelers since 2014. He’s played in 64 career games while the AFC has selected him for two Pro Bowls. When he came into the league, the Steelers listed Villaneuva at 277 pounds – big by the average person’s standards, but not for that of an NFL offensive lineman. 

That’s why Villanueva has struggled to put on weight. According to ESPN, Villanueva said he needs to eat constantly to put on an extra pounds by the time this year’s week one rolls around. And he’s not a big fan of having to do it: 

“It’s terrible,” the 6-foot-9 Villanueva said about his weight-gain process. “I would say it’s harder than losing weight because you feel gross.”

If it’s so unpleasant, what possible reason could Villanueva have for going through with it? It all boils down to how he feels on game day, and the confidence with which he can carry himself at 335 pounds: 

“I’m self-conscious about my weight, so I feel I need to be at 335,” Villanueva said. “If I feel I’m too light, I feel I’ll get lifted off the ground. With a solid 335, I can take on bull-rushes. But in reality, everything I just told you is not scientifically proven whatsoever and might have absolutely no effect on the game. It’s just a matter of confidence.”

While most people would dream of being able to eat all the time while struggling to gain weight, in reality, it has to leave Villanueva feeling uncomfortable. And it leads to the question of how offensive lineman got to be so big.

How the size of NFL offensive linemen has evolved over the years

The size of NFL players has evolved considerably over the years, and nowhere is that more apparent than on the offensive line. Take, for example, one of the NFL’s best offensive linemen from the 1920’s: Wilbur “Fats” Henry, who tipped the scales at 245 pounds and stood at 5’11”. By 2013 – only six years ago – the median weight of the average NFL tackle or guard was 310 lbs. 

There’s no wonder why Villanueva feels so much pressure to gain weight. Offensive linemen have never been bigger, as the added pounds give them an advantage over monster-sized nose tackles and defensive ends trying to push the line of scrimmage back. 

While offensive lineman like Villanueva gain a lot of weight when they’re playing, what happens when they retire? One recently retired legend provides evidence of the big man’s life after football – or at least one possible path. 

How Joe Thomas dropped his NFL weight

To make his NFL weight of 312 lbs., former Cleveland Brown Joe Thomas would take part in some drastic measures. He’d eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with milk every half hour. His caloric intake on inactive days was 4,200. 

Nowadays? Thomas is looking svelte as ever, as one can see in the before/after picture from Andrew Hawkins’ Twitter feed posted above. 

Thomas’s secret? A strict routine that included lots of pool time

“Facts: I think the first 25 fell off in a month, than [sic] I had to kick my butt to keep going. Swimming is the best from a cardio standpoint, and #keto w/ intermittent fasting is gold. I can eat 1500-2000 cals/day and feel full.”

So, the bad news for offensive lineman: If they want to play in the NFL and maintain their spot, they’ll need to eat past the point of comfort. The good news? If they’re lucky enough to have long careers, the weight should come off after they retire if they stick to a normal routine of a good diet and plenty of exercise.