clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Thoughts on a Crazy Week In Steeler Country

A nice piece here from Anthony that reminded me of a gem that Tim Gleason (maryrose) wrote last offseason during the apex of the Ben Roethlisberger hysteria. It was titled 'The Character of the Pittsburgh Steelers Has Never Changed'. Good points of view from both gentlemen more than a year apart. And come to think of it, the fact that both pieces are so similar goes to show that their basic premise is spot on. - Michael B. -


This has been a bad public relations week for the Pittsburgh Steelers. First, star receiver Hines Ward was arrested for a DUI in Georgia. Just days later, opinionated linebacker James Harrison made news for his inflammatory remarks in an interview he had with Men's Journal magazine.

Just when we all thought this offseason would end quietly and all the fans would have to worry about is the conclusion of the lockout and the beginning of training camp, these incidents happened back-to-back.

I won't get that deep into anything Harrison said in his interview or even Hines Ward's DUI, but what I'd like to start off talking about is the opinion held by some that these latest incidents, along with Mendenhall's twitter remarks about 9/11 earlier in the year, are an indication that Mike Tomlin cannot control his team.

How could Mike Tomlin prevent Rashard Mendenhall from tweeting controversial remarks? How is a head coach supposed to stop a player from making inflammatory statements in an interview conducted months into the offseason? How could Tomlin stop Hines Ward from getting behind the wheel of his car after a night of drinking in Georgia?

These are grown men and professional athletes, not college or high school kids. Maybe if we're talking about a college coach that is entrusted with the responsibility of molding and shaping immature young men then, yes, I could see him being on the hot seat when his players are in the news for some unsavory behavior.

However, once a person is out of college and onto his profession (even an athlete), it's nobody's responsibility to watch after him.

Tomlin's only responsible for maintaining order in-between the white lines and inside the locker room, and he's more than demonstrated the ability to have his troops focused and ready to play each and every week. .

Mike Tomlin has taken the Steelers to the Super Bowl two-times in his four seasons. No team that's out of control would be able to maintain the focus and discipline necessary to accomplish such a run of success.

Remember in 2008 when Tomlin made it a point to deactivate Casey Hampton because he reported to training camp over-weight and out-of-shape? Remember two seasons ago when Tomlin benched Rashard Mendenhall for not being on the details? Doesn't sound like a head coach that has no control over his guys.

And need I remind people that these incidents, these transgressions, have been committed by a few players and not the majority of the team?

Along those lines, fans have been concerned about the conduct of NFL players in-general in recent years, and there is this sentiment that behavioral problems are running rampant throughout the league. I think that's very unfair to the majority of NFL players who conduct themselves the right way day-in and day-out.

There are roughly 1700 players in the NFL. Using the Steelers' three PR fiascoes as a measuring stick, hypothetically speaking, if every team in the league had three off-the-field incidents, that would add up to 96. For the sake of this argument, let's round that number up to 100 (obviously, there haven't been 100 incidents involving NFL players, but let's just say there have).

If my ordinary math-skills are correct, that would mean that less than 6% of NFL players engaged in illegal activities or represented themselves in an inappropriate way.

I'll bet if you picked 1700 random citizens and did some thorough research on them, you'd probably find that at least 6% of them had past incidents that they weren't entirely proud of. NFL players are no different than any one else. There are some people who don't know how to behave, but the majority are nice, upstanding individuals.

For every Pacman Jones, there are dozens of Troy Polamalus. For every Santonio Holmes, there are countless Antwaan Randle Els.

Back to the Steelers and their problems. Some fans say they are embarrassed when a Steeler gets out-of-line away from the field. Why be embarrassed? I love the Steelers with all my heart, but I would never be embarrassed or shamed by anything a player does off the field. It's no reflection on me. That's the player's problem.

I'm embarrassed by lopsided losses or blown leads. If Pittsburgh gets blown-out by the Ravens on opening day, I'll be very embarrassed, but that's where my embarrassment will end. If a Steeler player goes out on the town and gets into a fight in a Baltimore strip club, I'll let his teammates, the Rooneys, and his family feel that shame. Not me.

Perhaps, if the percentage of Steelers getting into trouble or making inflammatory remarks was a little higher, I'd change my tune a little, but I'm not going to let the actions of a few individuals spoil it for me.

This doesn't mean that I agree with Harrison's remarks, Mendenhall's tweets, or Ward's poor judgement. However, I'm a realist. As long as the game is played by human beings, they're going to act like human beings and occasionally do very stupid things.

Players come and go, but the Steelers organization will always be around, and I'll never be a shamed to be a fan.