Poetic Justice for Pittsburgh: Le’Veon Bell Suspension Reduced to 2 Games, Tom Brady’s Upheld

For years Steelers Nation has been convinced that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has had it in for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Never mind that this hasn’t been true, given Goodell steadfast support of Dan Rooney during the Steelers 2008 ownership restructuring.

  • But Goodell has given his critics no shortage of ammunition.

He’s suspended for Ben Roethlisberger even though he was never arrested or charged with a crime, while convicts have gotten less. Heck, Ray Rice was video taped cold-cocking his girlfriend and got off with less. Goodell unfairly signaled out James Harrison and Ryan Clark for their hard hits. He fined Mike Tomlin for stepping on to the field while weeks later others followed suit and got off with in-game warnings.

The truth is that justice has been anything but blind and balanced in under Roger Goodell’s watch. But today the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans are enjoying just a smidge of poetic justices.

First, the NFL opted to up hold the four game suspension of Tom Brady. Aside from finally seeing someone on the Patriots punished for wrong doing, the move also means Brady will not play when the Patriots open at home vs. the Steelers.

Next, the NFL reduced Le’Veon Bell’s suspension from three games to two. Le’Veon Bell was of course arrested just over a year ago when he was caught in possession of marijuana while driving under the influence. LeGarrette Blount was also in the car, and has since been cut by the Steelers.

Earlier this spring, the NFL announced that Bell would face a three game suspension, which sent Steelers Nation up in arms as seemed to exceed the guidelines found in the NFL’s new conduct policy.

Since then opinon has been divided over whether Bell’s appeal would be successful or not. Fortunately for the Steelers it was. While Bell will miss the Steelers opener vs. the Patriots and their second game vs. the San Francisco 49ers, he should be available for their week 3 match up vs. the St. Louis Rams.

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Le’Veon Bell’s Suspension Cut to Two Games

It took perhaps longer than most would have liked, but the NFL made a decision on the appeal of Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell’s three-game suspension he received for both possessing and driving under the influence of marijuana last summer. As reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and various other outlets, Bell’s suspension has been reduced to two-games to start the 2015 regular season, and he’ll be eligible to play when the Steelers travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams in a Week 3 match-up on September 27.

Last August 20, Bell was the driver in a car with LeGarrette Blount, Bell’s backup until his release in November, when the vehicle was stopped by Ross Township police (Ross is a suburb north of Pittsburgh). Both running backs were found in possession of marijuana, and Bell was later found to have a sufficient amount of the substance in his system to charge him with a DUI.

According to the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bell’s appeal may have centered around the differences between the NFL’s old drug policy (in-place when Bell was stopped by police) and the new one, implemented last September. Under the old policy, a conviction for using marijuana would draw a one-game suspension, but a DUI would not. Under the new policy, a DUI warrants a two-game suspension, but a first time positive test for marijuana carries no suspension.

  • While Blount, now a member of the Patriots, would ultimately be suspended for one week, because of the DUI, Bell was initially given three games.

Bell finished second in the NFL a season ago in both rushing yards (1,361) and total yards from scrimmage (2,215).

In Bell’s absence, DeAngelo Williams, the veteran free-agent signed in the offseason from the Panthers, is expected to get the bulk of  the work at running back.

 

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Steelers Le’Veon Bell Given Three Game Suspension

The hammer finally came down on Steelers star running back, Le’Veon Bell, on Thursday for his arrest last August for possession of marijuana and driving under the influence (DUI).

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The NFL announced that the second year back who finished second in the NFL in 2014 in both rushing yards (1361) and total yards from scrimmage (2215), will be suspended for three games to start the 2015 campaign.

Bell was riding in a car with LeGarrette Blount on Pittsburgh’s McKnight Road mere hours before the two were to board a plane to take the team to Philadelphia for a preseason game against the Eagles the following evening, when a police officer spotted smoke coming from their car and subsequently pulled the vehicle over.

  • Both were charged with possession of marijuana, which is illegal in Pennsylvania. But Bell was also charged with a DUI since he was the one driving.

Blount, now with the Patriots after being released by the Steelers last November for leaving the field prematurely due to frustration over a lack of carries in a victory over Tennessee on Monday Night Football, was given a one-game suspension for his involvement in last summer’s incident.

Bell has said he plans to appeal the suspension, but, regardless, it looks like Pittsburgh will be without its star back and a key component to its offense at some point in the 2015 regular season.

The Steelers signed DeAngelo Williams to be Bell’s back-up, and his services may come in handy sooner rather than later.

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Watch Tower: James Harrison’s Return, “Steelers Way,” Goodell, and More

The NFL’s season is 3 weeks old and finds the Pittsburgh Steelers 1-2 and down three starters all on defense. There’s a lot of news, but the Watch Tower’s focus begins with the unretirement of James Harrison.

Dumping Cold Water on Debo’s Return?

The Pittsburgh Steelers responded to the loss of Jarvis Jones by bringing back former AFC Defensive player of the year, James Harrison. Yes, the same James Harrison who only returned to retire in Pittsburgh 18 days before.

Mike Tomlin, James Harrison, Selfie, Debo, Silverback, return, retire
Tomlin & Silverback Share Selfie

Judging by reaction on social media the move was met by near euphoria within Steelers Nation.

PaVa Steelers Fan of Behind the Steel Curtain (full disclosure, I am also an occasional contributor at BTSC) went so far as to paint a mystical connection between James Harrison’s return and the numeral 7. Fair enough, his piece was somewhat tongue and cheek, but it did capture the sense of destiny that accompanied Harrison’s return.

The Harrison story dominated Steelers press coverage throughout the week, from Tomlin’s press conference to his first practice to locker room interviews with the rest of the team.

  • After the feel good buzz, reality began to set it.

John Philips, of 93.7 The Fan, proclaimed his love for Silverback, but pointed to the obvious questions about his age and his time in Cincinnati and finished a piece on BTSC saying “Nostalgia is fun, but not when you want to win in the NFL.”

Dale Lolley drew a contrast between Harrison and Brett Keisel, indicating that Keisel actively wanted back, but that Harrison had to be coaxed back by conversations with Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu. Lolley even went as far as to quote Chuck Noll’s old adage, “If you’re thinking about retiring, you probably should.”

On ESPN, Scott Brown reached out to former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik, who predicted that “I think at the end of the day you’ll be lucky if James Harrison become a 20- to 25-snap guy.”

  • Not everyone in the professional press was down on the move however.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was one of the first to suggest the move, and downplayed some of the age issues, pointing out that former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Kevin Greene excelled as a pass rushing linebacker into his late 30’s. Alan Robinson of the Tribune-Review quoted Pro Football Focus figures rating Harrison as 8th among 4-3 linebackers last year, despite his limited time, and his ranking of third vs. the run.

Steelers, Goodell Link Explored

Steelers Nation has no love lost for Roger Goodell and has been vocal in criticizing him over the Ray Rice fiasco.

But little has been said or written about Art Rooney II’s role in leading the investigation, with the exception of Dejan Kovaevic. After taking Goodell to task an raising questions about his “investigation” Kovaevic takes the bold step of questioning Rooney’s role in supervising the investigation.

That’s somewhat of a gutsy move, as the Steelers have bent their strict rule on no press credentials for internet journalists for Kovaevic, who launched his own site during August.

Steel honed in on the Steelers role as the lone dissenters in approving the 2011 CBA, and made the rather astute observation that since making that vote, the Steelers have played all of their Thursday Night games on the road. (The rest of Steel’s column deals with Goodell’s hypocrisy and is well worth the read.)

Speaking of Domestic Violence…

The Ray Rice scandal might only involve Goodell and the Ravens, but the story is touching the entire NFL. William Gay’s life experience and charity efforts have drawn wide attention. And Harrison’s return brought up his history with the subject. The Steelers and Harrison took the issue head on, and it essentially became a non-story.

With the exception of Steeler Dad on Steel City Blitz, who used the occasion to argue that there is no such thing as “The Steelers Way.” In a nutshell, he recalls the “inconsistent” (to put it charitably) manner in which the Steelers dealt with James Harrison’s incident and that of Cedrick Wilson and concludes:

So what exactly is the “Steeler Way” when it comes to domestic violence? Apparently it’s no different than any other team in the NFL. It’s about winning and for players that help achieve that goal better than others it’s a chance to keep playing while the Cedrick Wilson’s of the world are released.

That’s pretty harsh, but the facts are pretty clear. (Although from a jurisprudence perspective, this was not Wilson’s first offense, the second one appeared pre-meditated, nor did he admit his mistake.)

The editorial position of this site with respect to the existence of a “Steelers Way” is more nuanced than that of Steeler Dad’s, but the Watch Tower salutes him for taking an unpopular position, much the way it saluted Joe Starkey for have the guts to point out the stories of Ben Roethlisberger’s post-Midgeville character change were almost solely based on Ben’s (then) newly found desire to collaborate with the media.

What IF…

The Watch Tower concludes with a shout out for friend and fellow scribe Ivan Cole, who took out time on BTSC to muse about how the experience of the Steelers of the 70’s would have been different had there been social media. His story is a hoot! Click here to read now.

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Bell and Blount’s Arrests Obscure Surprise that Comes with Keisel’s Return

The haze over Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount’s arrests helped obscure the fact that the Brett Keisel’s return to the Steelers came with a surprise. The first was that the Steelers had signed Brett Keisel to a two year deal, which is not what you’d expect for player about to turn 36.

However, the length of the contract is little more than salary cap maneuvering as explained by Jim Wexell:

@SteelCurtainRis  2 yr deal allows them to spread bonus money. (ie cap hit) over 2 yrs.
— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) August 20, 2014

Talk of bonuses naturally leads one to ask about the nature of the deal, which led to another exchange:

@SteelCurtainRis @bkeisel99 can’t give bonus over $60K, I believe, and also get a break on vet minimum. So, yes.
— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) August 20, 2014

The other big piece of news was that the Steelers wasted little time in putting Kesiel back at his old spot on the depth chart, at starting right end, sending sent Cameron Heyward back to the left side. ESPN’s Scott Brown was among the first to report the change, although he pointed out that Mike Tomlin pays “scant attention” to during the preseason.

But Brown did indicate that the Steelers clearly had not brought back Kesiel to serve in a sort of “player-coach” mentoring role. Jim Wexell took the story further by reporting that:

I’m finding out, didn’t come back to be a reserve. He’ll likely be a starter at some point, but whether it’s in two-and-a-half weeks for the opener is up to his conditioning.

So not only will Kesiel not be a mentor, but he will also be getting a lot more than the sort of spot duties that Jerome Bettis got in 2005.

While the move does appear to be a “set back” of sorts for a defense committed to getting younger, it does make sense, at least on paper. As discussed on Behind the Steel Curtain, rookies rarely play and never start for Johnny Mitchell, except those named Casey Hampton (ok, Brensten Buckner was another exception, but he didn’t pan out long term).

That rules out Stephon Tuitt, the second rounder from Notre Dame. Cam Thomas would seem to be the “loser” in this scenario, but the fact is that he is needed to back up Steve McLendon in the middle, a situation made all the more urgent by the Steelers decision to cut Hebron Fangupo to make room for Kesiel. In essence, Cam Thomas becomes the new Al Woods.

In the abstract this all works out perfectly, but Keisel’s play on the field will ultimately vindicate Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau, and Johnny Mitchell’s decision to start him.

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Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount Arrested on Drug Charges, DWU….

For 24 hours Steelers Nation basked in the glory of the decision to resign Brett Kesiel. The 2014 off season, it seemed, had been a picture of excellence. It had been free of the damming, judicial, distractions of the 2010 off season and the salary cap problems and painful veteran departures which came in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

  • Alas, the calm was not to be.

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review is reporting that Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount have been arrested for marijuana possession. Bell faces a potential additional charge of driving under the influence of marijuana and possibly a DWU, according to Colin Dunlap.

  • The Steelers Le’Backfield has the potential to be devastated before the season even starts.

If the charges are substantiated, in addition to their legal woes, both players will find themselves afoul of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. As Steel Curtain Rising has documented, Roger Goodell’s NFL justice has been anything but consistent.

While Ray Rice got a mere 2 game suspension for domestic abuse, a substance abuse violation can result in a 4 game suspension. This does not bode well for the Steelers.

  • Ben Roethlisberger‘s looks poised to get his desire for a more pass-oriented offense. And then some.

Blount and Bell are the only two Steelers running backs with an NFL carry to their names. Rookie Dri Archer has looked promising in preseason, but lacks a feature back frame….

Earlier in the off season yours truly suggested the Steelers should give Isaac Redman a second chance. Needless to say Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin were not similarly inclined.

But I’d bet someone with Isaac Redman’s resume would be looking pretty good on the depth chart right about now….

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Misdemeanor Charges Could be Pending for Maurkice Pouncey, per Accusers Lawyer

Just when things seemed to be quieting down regarding the assault that allegedly took place involving the Pouncey brothers last month in a Miami nightclub, the Miami Herald is reporting that misdemeanor battery charges could be pending for Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, and they could come as early as Friday.

Very early on, after the alleged July 12 incident was first reported, it appeared that no charges would be filed against either NFL lineman (Pouncey’s brother, Mike, is a guard for the Dolphons). But now, according to Marwan Porter,  the attorney representing the three accusers, charges may be imminent for Pittsburgh’s center.

  • It is unclear where Porter is getting his information. While he is quoted in the Herald story, he offers no concrete source for his claims.

However, the article does state that “multiple people apprised of the situation believe it will happen, and it could come as early as Friday.” Where there is smoke, there is usually fire, so it looks like the Steelers will have yet another legal fiasco on their hands as they prepare for the upcoming season.

Just days before their first exhibition game, and with so much excitement surrounding their cast of rookies and younger players looking to make a mark in the NFL, the last thing the Steelers probably wanted to have surface was a story like this involving their Pro Bowl center who they just signed to a contract extension in June.

Pouncey missed all but one series of the 2013 season with a significant knee injury. And now, even if no charges are filed in the alleged nightclub assault,  the Steelers may have to deal with a suspension of Pouncey similar to what Ben Roethlisberger served to start the 2010 season stemming from accusations of sexual assault in a Georgia nightclub.

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Maurkice Pouncey in the News…. For the Wrong Reasons….

Beware the Ides of July 24th…. That maybe a stab over poetic, but it seems relevant in the case of Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins centers Maurkice Pouncey and identical twin brother Mike Pouncey.

Just a year ago the two men got their name in the papers for the wrong reasons for sporting “Free Hernandez” clothing while celebrating their birthday, Hernandez being former New England Patriots start Aaron Hernandez, who played with the Pouncey’s in college and is now facing multiple murder charges.

  • A year and another birthday party later, and both men are in the papers for the wrong reason again.

And this time it is for something more serious than appearing to support someone who is on trial for a capital offense. Behind the Steel Curtain is reporting, citing sources from social media, that the Pouncey’s are being accused of assaulting a man and a woman accompanying them at a Florida nightclub while celebrating their birthdays.

  • Per BTSC’s report, the accusers have filed reports with the police. 

Beyond that, there is little solid information circulating, because as of 3:10 Eastern on July 12th neither the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, nor the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, nor ESPN.com has any news on the subject.

At the very least, this an unwelcome distraction for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their newly minted 42 million dollar center Pouncey as the team is set to commence training camp in two week’s time on the campus of St. Vincient’s, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

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Watch Tower: Breaking Down Emmanuel Sanders Coverage, Non-Coverage of McLendon and Redman Stories

Emmanuel Sanders signing, a run on Steve McLendon, Isaac Redman staying in Pittsburgh. And that doesn’t even count the 2013 NFL Draft. It has been a busy few weeks in Pittsburgh, and this edition of the Watch Tower shines its light on how those stories were (or weren’t covered) by the Steelers press corps.

Money Don’t Buy [Emmanuel Sanders] Love

Don’t blame Emmanuel Sanders next season if he pulls a Greg Lloyd like black out of the Pittsburgh media, because if the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association were calling the shots, Manny Sanders would be an New England Patriot now.

Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider set the tone when news of New England’s interest in Sanders broke:

Can’t agree with anguish of #Steelers fans. And I really can’t understand the Patriots here. Give me the third-round pick for Sanders.
— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) March 16, 2013

Ed Bouchette wrote a full length story declaring that keeping Sanders would be a bigger risk for the Steelers than letting him go, and labeling the choice a “no brainer.” For Mark Kabloy of the Tribune-Review, the one year nature of the Sanders tender was the deal breaker.

Dale Lolley honed in on Sanders injury history and also against the short-term nature of the deal, although Lolley should be credited for reporting on a split between the front office and the coaches on what to do about Sanders (although ESPN’s John Clayton broke the news, duly cited by Lolley.)

To find Love for Sanders, you have to go to Peter King of Sports Illustrated who devoted points 6 and 7 of his “Ten Things I Think I Think” of his MMQB column to the Sanders situation. First he blasted New England for its half-hearted, short term offer to Sanders, and praised Sanders, citing his team-high 14.2 yards per catch average.

Ivan Cole of Behind the Steel Curtain also wrote a strong defense of the Sanders signing, although BTSC’s readers voted overwhelmingly for the Steelers to take the pick and let Sanders walk (full disclosure I also write for BTSC.)

 So You Say Sanders Had Multiple Suitors…

After the Steelers matched New England’s offer for Sanders, Dale Lolley immediately told his readers to expect a long-term deal to be worked out.

  • Not so fast, shot back Sanders agent Jordan Woy, indicating that Sanders had “several offers” from NFL teams.

Ed Bouchette followed up the story, writing:

Whether he plays for them beyond that is problematic, and the Steelers had to know that when they decided to keep him for another year. 

The New England Patriots weren’t the only ones to offer Sanders a contract in free agency, and the Steelers might not be able to keep him beyond next season. [Emphasis Added]

Woy’s statement is woven in pure agent talk. Of course he’s supposed to say his client had plenty of offers (although if that’s the case, then why sign the one that is only for one year?)

But were there really teams lining up to throw money at Sanders? The average fan has no way of knowing, and relies on beat writers for that insight.

  • Unfortunately, Ed Bouchette offered none. 

He writes as if the multiple offers for Sanders were a matter of fact, yet gives his readers zero indication as to whether he has verified this claim with any sources, be they named or unnamed.

The Watch Tower has praised Ed Bouchette for his journalistic acumen before and no doubt will again, but the Post-Gazette’s readers deserved more from the “Dean” of the Steelers press corps on this one.

In fairness, though, Bouchette at least covered that aspect of the story whereas the Tribune Review appears to have ignored it.

McLeondon Coverage and… Non-Coverage

Steelers Nation got a jolt last week when news broke that the Green Bay Packers were working out starting nose tackle Steve McLendon, in news broken by the Baltimore Sun via Twitter.

Both Mark Kalboy and Ed Bouchette commented on the story via Twitter. Behind the Steel Curtain wrote a story on the visit and then a follow up suggesting that the Packers might simply be trying to pressure their own nose tackle B.J. Raji into extending his contract.

Ed Bouchette followed with a story on PG Plus, but readers of the regular Post Gazette online got nothing. (As PG Plus still refuses to take my money, I am unable to comment on the quality or depth of Bouchette’s story.)

In contrast, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review printed nothing on the story. A look at their main Steelers page as of 2:00 pm Eastern on Saturday 4/20/13 reveals nothing at all on Steve McLendon. Nothing on his visit to Green Bay, nothing on the 3 year deal that the Steelers signed him to.

The Trib’s writers did comment on McLendon via Twitter to be sure, but offered nothing to readers hungry for more than 140 character bites of information on a story with major implications for the Steelers defense in 2013.

  • The Tribune Review earns a big, black mark for its non-coverage of the McClendon story.

If You Happened to Want to Read More about Redman…

The other X Factor in the Steelers restricted free agent situation was Isaac Redman. They’d been rumors that a team might make a run on him, but nothing serious got published to that effect and probably for good reason as Redman signed his restricted free agent tender on Thursday evening without getting an offer.

  • Not that you would have found out about it by reading the Tribune Review, Post-Gazette, or even Behind the Steel Curtain.

Mark Kalboy did report the news via Twitter, but Redman remains a popular player in Steelers Nation, and his assured return means that he figures to be a major part of the Steelers rushing offense in 2013 and those two facts should have warranted more substantial coverage.

Steelers Black Out News on Visits in Advance of the 2013 NFL Draft 

Early in the month news of the Steeles pre-Draft visits flowed freely, and it was clear that they were evaluating a lot of linebackers.

  • Then suddenly, the news stopped.

This is not the first time the Steelers have tried to keep their pre-draft visits secret. Ed Bouchette shared this news with his readers a few off seasons ago on PG Plus, although if memory serves, he was able to uncover and publish the identities of several visitors.

Perhaps he did the same this year on PG Plus. Again, as PG Plus won’t take Watch Tower’s money, I have no way of knowing.

Jim Wexell did report on Twitter that Sio Moore visited the South Side on April 11th:

Sio Moore visiting today. Talked to him at combine. He wore glasses and seriousness reminded me of a Singletary, Kirkland. Great 3rd rd buck
— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) April 11, 2013

The average fan has little way of gauging whether it is easy or hard for reporters to find out who is making visits to the Steelers in advance of the 2013 NFL Draft if the Steelers refuse to announce those visits.

But readers should have been informed of the news black out, instead of simply suffering a sudden stop of information.

Ta’amu Takes a Cheap Shot from Steelers Depot

Shortly after news broke that Alameda Ta’Amu had pleaded guilty to a number of counts stemming from last fall’s drunken rampage on the South Side took a cheap shot.

Ta’amu was unfortunate enough to have a friend tweet an old photo of him holding a liquor bottle in the back seat of a car.

  • Ta’amu made matters worse by being dumb enough or at least inattentive enough to retweet it.

The website Steelers Depot pounced on the move, suggesting that Ta’amu was out the night before “celebrating” his relatively light sentence, and later updating the post suggesting that the fact that Ta’amu had his “friend” take down the photo was an admission of guilt.

However, as Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain pointed out, the photo was taken during the day and during the spring or summer, lending credibility to Ta’amu’s insistence that the photo was an old one.

Steelers Depot’s suggestion little more than a cheap shot, and BTSC deserves credit for calling them out on it.

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Alameda Ta’amu Pleads Guilty, Tries to Make Amends

Pittsburgh Steelers reserve nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu pleaded guilty yesterday to three counts of reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and driving while under the influence.

In return for his guilty plea Ta’amu was sentenced to 18 months probation, four days in DUI housing, and 150 hours of community service. Ta’amu was found not guilty of fleeing and evading in a drunken rampage on Pittsburgh’s South Side that saw Ta’amu damage four cars injuring one passenger and nearly run over four police officers on foot.

Ta’amu Apologies, Attempts to Make Good

After receiving the verdict Ta’amu offered to make amends stating:

I know what I’ve done is wrong. I’d do anything to make it right. What I did affected my whole family. I’ve got to keep learning from my mistakes. So far, I think I’ve done a good job of staying away [from alcohol].

The Steelers initial response to Ta’amu offense was to suspend him, although the team waived him during the season. He was resigned to the regular season roster for the season’s final game.

The Steelers drafted Ta’amu in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, trading up to get one of the last pure nose tackles on the board. Immediately after making that move, pundits rushed to project him as Casey Hampton’s successor, but such enthusiasm cooled when Ta’amu looked lost in training camp and struggled in preseason.

The Steelers have made it clear that Ta’amu, should he make the team, will remain on a short leash, as the team as already parted ways with its 5th round draft pick from 2012, Chris Rainey, for his own off season legal issues.

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