Roethlisberger sounds like he regrets where Steelers stood for national anthem

After Donald Trump's controversial comments on Friday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made the decision that his team would stay in their locker room at Soldier Field for the national anthem on Sunday. 

However, that's not exactly what happened. 

One player on the team, former U.S. Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, made headlines for his decision to come out on the field while the national anthem was sung before the Steelers' game in Chicago. The Pittsburgh offensive lineman was the only Steelers player visible on the field during the national anthem. 

Although Villanueva appeared to be the only Steelers player standing for the national anthem on Sunday, that's actually not the case. The rest of the team actually stood in a tunnel right behind Villanueva while the national anthem was sung. 

In the photo below, you can clearly see Ben Roethlisberger, Cameron Heyward and other Steelers players standing a few yards behind Villanueva during the anthem. 

Tomlin was also on the field for the pregame ceremony. 

At least one Steelers player sounds like he would've stood with Villanueva if he could do it all over again, and that player is Roethlisberger. In a statement posted to his personal website, Big Ben sounded regretful that he stood in the tunnel with his team. 

"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," Roethlisberger said. "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."

The Steelers quarterback also added that, like Villanueva, he doesn't believe in the form of protesting that's been taking place across the NFL

"I personally don't believe the anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest," Roethlisberger said. "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."

As for Villanueva, although he was only a few yards in front of his teammates, he apparently went rogue and made the decision to break ranks on his own, according to ESPN.com. Tomlin had said before the game that the Steelers wouldn't be on the field for the national anthem, and when he said, that, he meant everyone, with no exceptions

"I was looking for a hundred percent participation," Tomlin said, via the team's official website.. "We're going to be respectful of our football team. Man, these are divisive times in the United States. and it's a shame, but it is, but we're not politicians. We're coaches and professional athletes."

Linebacker James Harrison was also surprised to see Villanueva go out on the field. 

"We thought we were all in attention with the same agreement, obviously," Harrison told PennLive.com. "But I guess we weren't."

Although the team didn't expect Villanueva to do what he did, Heyward pretty much said it was impossible to be upset with a guy who happens to be a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan.

"I don't want to go into that, but we support our guy Al," Heyward said, via ESPN.com "He feels he had to do it. This guy served our country, and we thank him for it."

Villanueva's decision to stand along has paid off in the form of jersey sales. According to ESPN, the Steelers offensive lineman has the top-selling jersey in the country over the past 24 hours at Fanatics, which runs the NFL's online store. For a recap of everything that has happened since Donald Trump made his controversial comments on Friday, and a look at all the teams that protested on Sunday, be sure to read this.

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories