Perhaps the best take away out of Stephen King’s On Writing is his argument that compelling stories are never scripted. Instead, they evolve through the actions of their characters.
- And so it is with Pittsburgh Steelers blogs.
When the Steelers signed Melvin Ingram on July 19th, the article the photo that yours truly picked for the post discussing his signing was one of him tackling Le’Veon Bell in the 2015 game against the Chargers.
As it turned out, it was quite a fitting photo, because it Le’Veon Bell may have blazed the trail that led the Steelers to trade Melvin Ingram to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 6th round pick after just 6 games in the Black and Gold.
When asked to explain the decision, Mike Tomlin conceded that “I enjoy working with Melvin. It just didn’t work out the way we envisioned, the way he envisioned.” Then he clarified, “And sometimes it happens in free agency and that’s really, you know, culturally, why we build our team primarily through the draft.”
- Rumors have circulated for weeks that Ingram wanted out.
The Steelers had an offer from the Chiefs, but wanted to send him to the NFC. Ultimately they couldn’t. “What the team needs is first and foremost,” Tomlin insisted, before pivoting “Also, it’s better to have volunteers as opposed to hostages, so that’s good for the team as well.”
If the “hostages” and “volunteers” colocation sounds familiar (OK, it’s not a true collocation, but how many ESL teachers are gonna read this anyway?) it should.
Nearly 3 years ago, almost to the day, Mike Tomlin explained to ESPN’s Dianna Russini “We need volunteers, not hostages,” when asked about whether the Steelers needed Le’Veon Bell to end his holdout.
- The decision confirms a shift the franchise’s policy and attitude in these situations.
Four summers ago Dale Lolley and Jim Wexell raised eyebrows when they suggested James Harrison was a candidate for the waiver wire. Social media decried the story as “click bait” but Harrison neither played nor practiced at St. Vincents. And when the season started, some Sundays he didn’t get a helmet and he seldom played when he did.
- Much of this happened outside the public eye but privately James Harrison was furious and did little to hide it when the cameras weren’t rolling.
The Steelers of course cut James Harrison just before Christmas, the Patriots signed him, started him, Harrison got a few sacks on national TV and a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Steelers suffered their worst public relations debacle since Chuck Noll’s “Franco Who?” comment that ended with the ghastly sight of Franco Harris wearing a blue No. 34 Seattle Seahawks jersey.
The Ingram trade depletes the depth behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith leaving the Steelers with only Derrek Tuszka and Taco Charlton was backups. An injury to either Watt or Highsmith could derail the Steelers season just as James Conner’s injury derailed the 2018 season.
But that’s a gamble the Steelers are willing to make in exchange for locker room harmony, which might be the lasting lesson that Le’Veon Bell left to the team.