You could see the anger building Tuesday. There was a tension in the air early that day as news began to circulate that the Steelers would need to sign a new QB as backup Bruce Gradkowski was about to undergo surgery on a broken digit to his left hand. The tension was not being generated by the loss of Gradkowski. Oh no, the palpable rage and disgust was coming from who the team was reportedly bringing to 'tahn 'n at.
The name Mike Vick still seemingly brings the worst out in people but I guess that's what happens when you are implicated in an illegal multi-state dog fighting ring that you operated for quite some time. I guess when you promote, fund and facilitate said dog fighting ring and are convicted of it, it's kinda hard not to feel that any backlash is not warranted by people who follow the NFL, or are just animal lovers.
To those people, no matter what you do after serving 21 months in a federal prison and another two months in home confinement. No matter how many fines you had to pay, no matter how much financial loss you take for your actions, (by my guess, it's in the $30-$40 Million dollar range) it's not going to be enough for the blood thirsty crowd that wants this man to keep paying for his crimes against canines.
By Tuesday evening it was clear that the Steelers were in too deep when it came to needed a quality, experienced backup in the event that Ben Roethlisberger, one of the most durable athletes in sports, went down. That option that Mike Tomlin and the Steelers brass would turn to was Vick.
Welcome the vile and vitriol.
The reaction from Steelers fans was quite predictable. Many were in rage. They couldn't imagine that the 'Steelers Way' was being overlooked in signing a dog killer. How could a franchise that prides itself on doing things the 'right way' sign such a monster?
Please, just stop it already. There may not be a bigger fallacy than this notion the Steelers are or act 'above' many other teams. The Rooney's had to hide the antics of Ernie 'Arrowhead' Holmes for years. He once took a shotgun and proceeded to use it on a helicopter for crying out loud. The 'Steelers Way' is a bigger myth than Santa.
But still on Wednesday, nearly 24 hours after signing Vick, the hatred and anger poured into social media and sports talk shows across the region. Protesters (very few) showed up on the South Side at Steelers headquarters to share their dislike for the latest player wearing black and gold.
Facebook and Twitter were filled with passionate Steelers fans swearing up and down that they would 'burn their jerseys' and not watch their favorite team. That the signing of Vick was unacceptable for them and a gigantic black eye on the franchise.
What a bunch of bull ----.
I'm here to tell you that it's time to stop this radical nonsense and stop the hate regarding the signing of Mike Vick. Seven years have passed since he got out of jail and paid his debt to society. Paid financially by declaring bankruptcy. Paid his time from an NFL suspension. Mike VIck, like many who break the law, had to pay a very large debt for the crime he committed.
He's done that. He's gone to the depths of hell and back. In short, give the guy some slack already.
Vick works with the Humane Society, talking to groups, many young kids about the wrong he did. About the crimes he himself said he's sorry for. Vick has paid his debt and continues to make every effort to spread the word on the wrong he did while trying to steer young people away from similar actions.
In short, let the guy earn a living. He has for six seasons since being reinstated to the NFL. People deserve a 2nd chance after paying their debt to society. Vick is no different. This isn't about 'living in glass houses and casting stones' either. This is about one man and the crime he has paid for, several times over.
I don't know if Mike Vick will ever see a down of play in a Steelers uniform. But I do know that if he does, it' won't take long for fans to shower him with praise if he leads the team to victory.
Let it go Steelers fans. Mike Vick deserves a chance to earn your support. Let him do that through his actions now, not what happened so long ago.
John Phillips is the author of this article. He works as a reporter/sports anchor for CBS Pittsburgh's 93.7 The Fan and News Radio 1020 KDKA. You can follow JP on the Twitter @PGHJohnPhillips