Friday, March 12, 2010

Last time I touch the Trib, I swear...

Joe Starkey, on how the Steelers are a cesspool of immorality, etc.

The Steelers' carefully cultivated image isn't resting on Roethlisberger's innocence.

Is it resting on the vast majority of our roster being comprised of more or less good citizens? The franchise being fair with its fan base? The quality of play being consistently good? The ownership being a class-act? Is it resting on any of these things? Because if so, then the Steelers' image should be okay.

That image has long since crumbled.

Strike that.

The so-called Steeler Way is dead.

Yeah, thanks to this guy.

Don't get me wrong. The Steelers do most things better than nearly everybody. They draft better players, hire better coaches, win more championships.

But they've also produced more domestic terrorists, serial killers and pedophiles than everyone else. High price of winning.

But could we please stop pretending that they do so from elevated moral ground?

I'm pretty sure the prevailing view of the Steelers has been that they're an extremely classy organization. Whether they're morally superior?? I don't know. I mean, they don't sue their own fans (Redskins) or use indigenous people as mascots (again, Redskins). They also haven't been accused of taping their opponents game plans (Patriots). I mean they're not UNICEF, but you can respect them as an organization that tries to operate within a set of decent principles.

Rooney is not granting interviews, so there is no way to gauge his feelings on this latest legal headache.

False. There is a way to gauge his feelings on the latest legal headache. Start by closing your eyes, then imagine you've just written a check for $112,000,000 to someone who promised to play a lot of football games for you. Then realize there's the chance that he's going away from a long time, and that you're out some money and talent. Now ask yourself how that feels. There, you've just gauged how Mr. Rooney feels, using the 'common sense' method.

One wonders if he is ashamed of the Steelers' deteriorating image under his watch. Does he know that his players' off-field antics have made the franchise every bit as much a punch line as the Cincinnati Bengals?

I don't listen to or tell many jokes, but I highly doubt that "the Pittsburgh Steelers" is a punchline. "Jeff Reed" may be a punchline because he's goofy and likes to drink. "Big Ben" may be a punchline because he gets accused of raping people. "James Harrison" is certainly not a punchline because no one's stupid enough to joke about him.

Let me go one step further in disentangling things from the Bungles of Cinci; look at this list. The joke from 2005-2007 about their team sucking because everyone was in prison was actually about their bullshit team being mostly locked up. It wasn't like one dude's bad track record. It was actually a systemic lack of discipline leading to countless DUIs and scuffles with law enforcement.

Some people still buy the myth. That was obvious when rumors surfaced last summer of the Steelers having interest in disgraced quarterback Michael Vick. The Steelers? They would never bring in a guy like that. That's not the Steeler Way.

And then the Steelers went ahead and signed Michael Vick, thus supporting the assertion that "the Steeler Way" is dead. I've gotta admit, Joe Starkey, I wasn't on board when you started out, but when you prove your point like this, there's just no denying it.

At face value, such assertions were valid. The Steelers had no history of signing troubled, high-profile free agents and weren't going to sign Vick. But the implication that they only employ players of the strongest moral fiber should have insulted any reasonable person's intelligence.

People asserting that the Steelers have no place for puppy murders was true... AT FACE VALUE. Dig deeper and you'll find that Jack Hamm used to produce Foie Gras, not because he liked the taste, but because he took pleasure from an animal's suffering.

Let's consider just some of the trouble we've seen since Super Bowl XL.

7) Lack of power running
8) Brief period of uncertainty over ownership structure
9) Big Ben's alleged diddling
10) Big Ben's motorcycle mishap

Where would you like to start: offense, defense or special teams?

My knee-jerk, somewhat facetious list started with special teams, then hit offense, and didn't really cover defense, because it's been outstanding in that time period.

Let's go with receiver Santonio Holmes, who was arrested twice within 25 days of the Steelers drafting him. A disorderly conduct charge out of Miami was dropped. Holmes later was charged with domestic violence and assault against the mother of one of his children.

In a police affidavit, the woman alleged that Holmes was "choking (her), throwing her to the ground ... and slamming her into a door." Charges were dismissed when Holmes' lawyers assured a Ohio judge that Holmes was participating in counseling through the NFL.

This past year, Holmes escaped a misdemeanor drug charge when his attorney successfully argued that a traffic stop violated the player's rights.

There's also Santonio's confession during Super Bowl XLIII's media day that he used to sell drugs. My favorite part of the story is that Charlie Batch called him out after his last arrest and told him it was time to either step-up and be a good citizen, or leave. Santonio stepped up and went on the record warning kids away from drugs. Soon after, he was the key player in a brilliant drive that secured a championship. Pretty cool story about redemption and character.

Another receiver, Cedrick Wilson, allegedly walked into a bar two years ago and punched his ex-girlfriend in the face. The Steelers, upon cutting Wilson, released a sanctimonious statement saying they hoped the roster move would "send a message that we will not tolerate this type of conduct."

Kevin Colbert didn't have use for Wilson so he cut him, and the Rooney's used that as a soapbox to warn other guys on the team that they need to not hit women.

That was before star linebacker James Harrison, who was arrested for striking the mother of his son around the same time as the Wilson incident, was signed to a $51.5 million contract. Charges were dropped, but Harrison had to undergo anger-management counseling — and in his autobiography, it was verified that Harrison struck the woman in the face.

Kevin Colbert had a lot of use for James Harrison and wasn't going to cut him. However, the team was serious about wanting their players to behave, so they came down heavy on #92 and made him adjust his behavior off the field.

If there was any evidence that Steelers weren't reprimanding guys, or establishing a clear policy of what's acceptable behavior, then I'd get on board with what Joe Starkey's saying. But the fact is, a lot of players don't fuck up, and those that do generally get put in their place or cut. Why did Ben get to go scott-free throughout last season? Because he hadn't actually be proven guilty of anything. Why did Jeff Reed get tagged after several years of being a drunk? Because he's a fucking place kicker who doesn't hurt a soul (just paper towel dispensers).

We could go on. We could talk about the kicker's run-ins with a towel dispenser and policemen,

Already did.

the offensive line coach who accidentally forwarded a pornographic e-mail to league offices,

On the list of great NFL scandals, this one is somewhere between Donte Stallworth killing a guy with his car and Plaxico shooting himself with an unregistered gun.

the tight end who allegedly urinated in a parking lot near Heinz Field

Matt Spaeth public pissing citation is the new this.

and even one of the team mascots who was arrested for DUI.

You got me there. Steely McBeam hurts everything about the team image.

Let's just be truthful: All NFL franchises deal with trouble. All have been known to sacrifice ethics for the sake of winning. That's the point. The Steelers are no different than the rest, though they're having a pretty rough run at the moment.

Here's what's rough: the very talented franchise QB has been accused of being a sex offender. That's very rough.

The Steelers hiring him to be their QB before these allegations were made: not at all a sacrifice of ethics.

Hey, remember the last time I did this? It was because the Trib was arguing that Ben was the clutchiest winner of all clutchampionships. WAS THAT ETHICAL?

I'll leave that for you to debate.