Updated: Sep 16, 2020
(Image via @C_AdamskiTrib on Twitter)
Mike Tomlin said during his Tuesday press conference that Alejandro Villaneuva discussed with him before Monday night's game about honoring Army sergeant Alwyn Cashe on the back of his helmet, who was awarded the Silver Star for heroism after his death at 35 while on duty in Iraq. Cashe could become the first Black recipient of the Medal of Honor in Iraq and Afghanistan. In August, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper informed members of Congress that Cashe's actions should be rewarded with the Medal of Honor.
Some questioned the optics of Villaneuva going away from what the team was doing, as the Steelers have stated continuously they would be unified in whatever they decided to do to fight social injustice. There was also the 2017 incident in Chicago where Villaneuva was out in front standing outside of the team's tunnel for the national anthem while the rest of his team was inside the tunnel, a situation that the Steelers didn't plan for. A Bears flag poler got in the way of the rest of the team and by the time the flag person moved, the anthem started to play and everyone stopped in their tracks; causing a confusing situation for Villanueva and the team.
This time, there was no confusion and Tomlin gave the green light for Villanueva to honor a war hero. Tomlin said he supports Villanueva and all players in however they choose to participate or not choose to participate as long as they do so thoughtfully and with class.
“That’s been a blanket approach we’ve had,” Tomlin said, “so I think it needs no further explanation in terms of our support for Al Villanueva or anyone else in terms of what they do or don’t do in regards to social justice, as long as they adhere to the outline I just outlined for you.”