"The standard is the standard;" a classic cliche that has become a stigma defining the expectations of members of the most successful organization in the modern era of the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This standard has often been mentioned in light of the need for younger players and/or replacements on the team to be ready for whenever they may be called on to play with the starting unit and help the team maintain the same level of success it had with the veteran being replaced. But there is also a standard that each player on the team is expected to uphold off of the field.
While this doesn't mean everyone that has ever been on the team has upheld this standard, it's clear that such a standard exists within the organization when one observes the history of many of its leaders in the public eye. This is once again in evidence, based on how the team responded to the release of the video in which Ray Rice brutalized his then-fiancee.
Quarterback and team captain Ben Roethlisberger was asked by Baltimore media for his take on Ray Rice's situation. Despite Rice being a veteran on a team that has had several hard-fought games and harsh words with the Steelers, Roethlisberger kept his remarks positive.
"We pray for him and his wife and his family," Roethlisberger said. "The biggest focus is the game on Thursday. That's really all that we can afford to deal with right now on such a short week and notice. That's the most important thing for us right now is what we control."
Roethlisberger's statement follows suit with how other Steelers' veterans responded when asked their opinion about the elevator video.
Despite seeing his own mother lose her life to domestic violence, Steelers' cornerback William Gay chose not to attack Rice. He instead talked about praying for Rice and his wife, and getting help for Rice in dealing with the many issues that exist here.
Safety and team captain, Troy Polamalu, spoke to the point of being in no position to judge Rice's actions because everyone must deal with their own struggles in life and each must confront their own problems, instead of dwelling on the judgments of others.
These players are not rushing to publicly judge or point the finger at a rival. These are professionals taking the high road on the issue rather than publicly chastising Rice.
Just a few years ago, Rice was on the other end of such an exchange when long-time Steelers' wide receiver, Hines Ward, was dealing with a DUI charge. He took the opportunity to tweet that Ward's DUI charge was "not a good look," and then lecture about his actions and the impact it can have on those that see him as a role model.
"People look up to you, Hines," Rice said. "You just were on TV with Dancing with the Stars. Ravens fans were upset that you won Dancing with the Stars but they still watched you. That shows your charisma and character. You've got a legacy in the NFL that no one can take away from you. But if you hurt somebody drunk driving, that takes away a lot."
For the record, the DUI charge was dropped against Ward.
Rice's approach to Ward's situation is the opposite of how Roethlisberger, Gay and Polamalu reacted when asked their opinions on the tape of Rice knocking out his then-fiancee. Growing up as a Steelers fan, this is in line with what I've come to identify as the way of this organization. Instead of judging and talking about what another person needs to do, or should have done, you speak with respect, support, and empathy toward what that person's struggles might be.
It takes a strong sense of humility not to go along with public opinion and not to make an evaluation strictly from one's own perspective, but to refrain from judgment and speak in support of a man whose actions have made him an easy punching bag for any media pundit wishing to address the issue of domestic violence.
This doesn't mean Rice shouldn't be criticized for his actions, nor does it mean that a member of the Steelers' organization would necessarily be wrong for publicly lambasting Rice over the incident. It's obvious that Rice is in the wrong and his career has now jumped off the tracks, but what's not obvious is how he will atone for his actions and work to resolve whatever issues lie within himself which were tied to his actions.
Whether it was how they showed their support for the Rice family to fix these problems, how Polamalu refused to judge Rice's actions, or how Ike Taylor and Mike Tomlin chose not to comment at all, the Steelers refrained from speaking with disdain towards Rice as a person despite how easy that would have been.
That's where humility plays a role. That's why they've remained positive during this controversial issue. That's why they didn't take the easy route of adding to the many jabs directed at Rice because of his actions and have focused instead on prayer and support for he and his family to get to the root causes leading to this disgusting incident. That's the class act expected of professionals in the Steelers' organization.
In short, that is the standard.