Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Steeler Way Is Dead

The Dallas Cowboys. The Baltimore Ravens. The Cincinnati Bengals. These are some of the past and present rivals of the Pittsburgh Steelers. One thing that Steelers fans pride themselves in when talking trash to fans from these cities is the rap sheets of their players. Steeler fans were always allowed to do this because they were different. Their players were held to a higher standard. We didn't need to worry about those problems. And that was referred to as the "Steeler Way." Now while the Steelers aren't signing convicted murderers off of the street, the higher standard that they once held their players to no longer exists.

Prior to Monday morning, most fans (even Steeler fans) had absolutely no idea who Alameda Ta'amu was. He is a rookie defensive tackle that the Steelers drafted in the fourth round hoping that he would one day develop into a replacement for the aging Casey Hampton. He struggled in training camp and was beaten convincingly for the backup spot by Steve McLendon but those are typical struggles for a rookie. He has yet to be activated for a regular season game which goes a long way in explaining why he was basically an unknown.

Now he is all but a household name in the city of Pittsburgh and it isn't because he has rejuvenated the defense. Ta'amu was arrested over the weekend and faces a laundry list of charges which include driving under the influence, aggravated assault with a vehicle, and resisting arrest. Quite frankly, it would be easier for me to tell you what he wasn't arrested for. For more details on the situation itself, check out this article from Deadspin.

Now Ta'amu is an unknown in the league that has yet to do anything to prove that he can be a legitimate NFL player. And while he has yet to have his day in court, it is painfully obvious that he at least did something wrong that night. After all, his blood alcohol content was .196 and he weighs 348 pounds. In case you're wondering, that's approximately a case of beer in five hours. If I drank the same amount, my BAC would be .633 aka dead.

Ta'amu's big punishment was handed down on Tuesday. He got a two game suspension. That's it. Two games for a guy that doesn't play to begin with. To be fair, that is only until his court date and then he will all likelihood be released.

This is just a part of a bigger problem. The Steelers have changed their standards. They are now the same as every other team in the NFL. If you are a good player, you get a free pass. If you aren't, pack your bags. Ben Roethlisberger has had his off the field issues. James Harrison has been involved in domestic disputes. Hines Ward was arrested for a DUI. Nothing happened to any of them. Some people may bring up Santonio Holmes but look at the situation. It was his second time getting in trouble, his contract was on the verge of expiring, and the team had an up and coming replacement in Mike Wallace on the roster. He was traded because he was expendable. It just looked like a punishment.

I'm not saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers are turning into a group of thugs like some of the other franchises that I named earlier in this post are known for. Equivalents of Nate Newton driving a van with 213 pounds of marijuana, Ray Lewis "obstructing justice," and Jerome Simpson's marijuana shipments aren't happening here. But the fact is that we came really close to reading about a Pittsburgh Steeler being shot by police the other morning and he only got a two game suspension for it.

All 32 NFL teams have a handful of fantastic guys that do tremendous work in their communities and make a difference. They also have a handful of dreadful guys that get arrested on a yearly basis. The rest are all in the middle. Sure, some franchises are a little better than others but the fact is that there are no standout organizations in this league anymore. Big shots in these organizations don't keep their jobs by having tremendous moral standards. They keep their jobs by winning and to do that, you sometimes have to put talent above character. It's time for the old school yinzer to realize that Pittsburgh is no different.


  1. You make a lot of good points. But as a die hard Steelers fan, I think the truth is that the halo that many of us want to put over the franchise doesn't shine as brightly as many of us (me included) want to think it does.

    Case in point, Ernie Holmes, who in the early 1970's led police on a highway chase that included him shooting a gun at a police helicopter.

    The Steelers talked the judge into releasing him into their custody. Holmes got some psychological help but served no jail time and went on to win two Super Bowls.

    Do the Steelers run a cleaner shop than a lot of other NFL franchises? Probably yes.

    But they neither have a locker room full of altar boys nor has the team ever had a zero tolerance policy on discipline issues.

  2. I totally agree on the points you make which is something I've also heard from some folks on Twitter when I posted this. I think I just caused some confusion in the point that I was trying to drive home which I admittedly didn't do a very good job of doing.

    My biggest point is that the Steelers don't do as good of a job of avoiding destructive personalities as they did in the past. Of course, if you draft a guy who has never gotten in trouble before and he goes out and does something stupid, there's nothing you can do about that. However, they are drafting guys that already have records (Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Mike Adams, Alameda Ta'amu, etc.)which is something that they used to avoid.

    I think they bought into their own hype and began to believe that they could transform these guys. And it hasn't worked as well as they hoped.

  3. Interesting point. And while I can't dispute your point about some of the players taken on the Colbert era, I will say that the should be considered individually.

    One that you didn't mention was Marvel Smith, who had a positve drug test in college, yet got drafted anyway and had no known incidents as a Steeler.

    Plex had discipline issues known to the team, but kept himself clean while in Pittsburgh.

    About 'Tone, I don't know if he'd had issues in college, but his first issues came after being drafted. Legally he kept pretty clean until '08. At the time I thought he might be a gonner, but after the Super Bowl....

    As for Mike Adams, that's a unique case where a guy repented and got himself back on the team's draft board. Time will tell on that one.

    Regarding Ta'amu, based on the way I read the Post-Gazette report, his prior issue with DWI's was not known publicaly until now.

    Now, do these moves represent a change?

    I am not sure. Art Rooney Jr. wrote in his took Ruanaidh that they knew or at least had been warned about Joe Gilliam's substance abuse issues. He also mentions (or perhaps its in another book) that there were warning signs about Gabe Rivera when they drafted him.

    Again, I think you make valid points. For my money, this suspension of Ta'amu seems a little too light.

  4. The suspension is definitely too light. That's another point where I think the Steelers have changed their ways. Much of the talk to this point have been about guys like Holmes (Santonio and Ernie), Plax, and Ben. What do all of those guys have in common? They're good.

    Even with the recent lack of emphasis in keeping troublesome personalities off the roster, they have been consistent in one thing. And it's the same thing that most NFL teams are consistent with. If you're good, you get a lot more rope on off the field issues than if you aren't.

    That is until now. Now I'll be the first one to say that I loved the Ta'amu pick when it was made. However, he has struggled since day one and hasn't been activated for a game yet. Also, McLendon has significantly outplayed him. There's no point in only suspending him two weeks. It accomplishes nothing.