Hours after reports of a domestic dispute made national headlines, the team severed ties with the incident and the involved player. Now, it looks like the rest of the league shares their sentiment.
Rainey, a fifth-round draft selection in 2012 out of Florida University, had earned a spot on the Steelers roster as their primary kick returner as a rookie. His final statistics are non-indicative of his on field performance as the team struggled with untimely special teams penalties from multiple players. He still managed to rack up 1,035 yards on 39 kick returns. He fielded three punts, but fumbled once and gained only 16 yards.
He even managed to squeeze into the offensive game-plan on a roster heavy at his positional group. He picked up 102 yards on 26 carries, and added another 60 yards on 14 receptions. His only two touchdowns came as rushing carries.
Unfortunately, Rainey had his character drawn into question coming out of college, and then failed at keeping his nose clean. While a few instances were tossed in a box labeled "other concerns" in the back of the front office's mind, any form of domestic violence would not qualify as one of those types of incidents.
On January 10th, when reports of a struggle between Rainey and his girlfriend over a cellphone had escalated to the point of police involvement and Rainey's arrest, the team did not hesitate to announce they would release Rainey as a result of his actions, regardless of any ensuing investigations.
General manager Kevin Colbert concisely verbalized the organizations feelings on the situation.
"Chris Rainey’s actions this morning were extremely disappointing. Under the circumstances and due to this conduct, Chris will no longer be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers."
League policies require teams to wait until after the Super Bowl before beginning their releases, in order to protect the integrity of the playoffs. Pittsburgh would have a month to wait before acting on their declaration. Some wondered if the team would change their opinion on the matter as time went by and other teams began considering Rainey as a free-agent chance worth taking. The Steelers refuted those rumors and made good on their word by waiving Rainey as soon as the deadline had passed.
Today, Rainey is completely unemployed after clearing waivers and becoming a free-agent. His rookie contract was relatively cheap and had three years remaining. His on field abilities were well documented on film, and many teams are seeking help for their special teams units. However, not one single team claimed him as he fell from team to team.
Off-season rosters will reach 90 players as teams enter training camp. Rainey will most likely find work somewhere with a chance to compete for a roster spot, but the fact he cleared waivers speaks volumes on how the rest of the league feels about him. There is little financial gain for any team to not claim him hoping to offer him a cheaper deal as an unrestricted free-agent. If any team really wanted him, they would've claimed him. This also eliminates any hope for the team to sign him back. If they were interested in giving him any more chances, they wouldn't have eaten the cap penalties associated with his release.
Rainey will be hard pressed to find a better situation than what he had in Pittsburgh, but he has no choice except to attempt to salvage what is left of his promising, unlikely career.