Steelers Waive Chris Rainey — Are They Guilty of a Doublestandard?

Already reeling from a disappointing and decidedly mediocre 8-8 record, the Pittsburgh Steelers got another jolt in the form a Chris Rainey arrest for domestic violence.

Rainey was the Steelers fifth round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and he came to them with a checkered history. But Rainey had spent time in the home of Maurkice Pouncey, and Pouncey’s parents vouched for Rainey, and that was good enough for Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin.

  • Apparently the dynamic duo were far too trusting in this case.

The Steelers wasted little time in parting ways with Rainey, as Kevin Colbert stated on the team’s website:

Chris Rainey’s actions this morning were extremely disappointing. Under the circumstances and due to this conduct, Chris will no longer be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It should also be noted that Rainey also got into trouble with the law after being cited for defiant trespass for entering the Meadows Racetrack and Casino outside Washington, Pennsylvania. The violation arose because Rainey had signed a self-exclusion letter, where he voluntarily barred the casino from allowing him to enter.

Rainey had been one of the few bright spots of the Steelers 2012 Draft class that saw its season marred by injury. Clearly this kind has issues, and the Steelers did the right thing in cutting him….

Do the Steelers Open Themselves to Charges of Double Standard?

…But in parting ways with Rainey, the Steelers also open themselves to charges of a double standard.

In October, Alameda Ta’amu, the Steelers 2012 4th round draft pick was charged with a host of crimes relating to a drunken rampage he engaged in while driving through the South Side. The Steelers did suspend Ta’amu, and eventually cut him, but brought him back via the practice squad.

Reaching farther back, the Steelers declineded to cut James Harrison when he was accused of domestic violence, but it cut wide receiver Cedrick Wilson after he was seen assaulting his girlfriend in a Pittsburgh restaurant.

The difference between Wilson’s and Harrison’s cases is that this was not Wilson’s first offense and his act appeared to be premeditated.

Still critics rightly noted that Wilson was a bit player where as Harrison an All Pro….

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Steelers Cut Alameda Ta’amu Sign David Gilreath

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a slightly surprising roster move ahead of their Monday Night Football game at Heinz Field vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Steelers cut one-time Casey Hampton heir apparent, 4th round draft pick Alameda Ta’amu and used his roster spot to activate wide receiver David Gilreath from the practice squad.

The injury that Antonio Brown suffered in the Steelers victory over the New York Giants will keep him out of the Chief’s game, and leaves the Steelers without their number 2 receiver. While Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders filled in admirably for Brown, the simple math reveals that the only 4 wide receivers healthy remain on their active roster.

David Gilreath is in his second year in the NFL, having spent time with the Chargers, Colts and Bills during the 2011 season. He caught on during the Steelers 2012 off season and impressed in training camp. Gilreath’s preseason game vs. the Colts was a particularly strong outing for the young receiver  but he could not reproduce his success in subsequent outings and Gilreath found himself on the Steelers practice squad.

Farewell to Alameda Ta’amu?

The move to cut Ta’amu amounts to a minor surprise. Alameda Ta’amu is facing DWI, disorderly coduct and a battery of other felony charges for leading the police an an extended chase through the South Side. The Steelers did suspend him for 2 games, and took a lot of public criticism for not cutting him outright.

Clearly, the Steelers do not fear losing him via the waiver wire.

In all likelihood, Ta’amu will be resigned either to the active roster or practice squad once Brown returns to full health. But clearly this young rookie is regarded as expendable at this point.

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Steelers Suspend Alameda Ta’amu, Resign Crobin Bryant

The Pittsburgh Steelers made two roster moves today. One was expected, the other came as somewhat of a surprise.

The Steelers first move was to suspend Alameda Ta’amu for two games following Ta’amu’s arrest for drunk driving and fleeing police. While the move was expected, it did open the door to potential controversy.

After the Steelers shipped Santonio Holmes off to the New York Jets for his transgressions, they put the rest of the locker room on notice that anyone else who ran afoul of the law would be out.

A two game suspension is a real punishment, but pales in comparison to the threat of the waiver wire, especially when you consider that Ta’amu was basically a project.

Steelers Sign Lineman

Ta’amu had not dressed for a game, so he’ll hardly be missed this weekend vs. Cincinnati. However, the Steelers almost certainly will be without the services of Marcus Gilbert and Marukice Pouncey, both of whom were injured in the loss to Tennessee.

A roster move on the offensive line was widely expected, and still may materialize.

However, that has yet to happen, as the Steelers resigned defensive lineman Corbin Bryant.

Corbin Byrant played on the practice squad of the Steelers throughout 2011, but Bryant was activated when Aaron Smith went on IR, and he played in the Steelers victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Byrant had a strong training camp, joining Steve McLendon, LaMarr Woodley, and Chris Carter as the only defenders to register a sack during preseason. It was a mild surprise that Bryant did not make the team’s practice squad.

The move to sign him to the active roster is somewhat puzzling, given that he takes the roster spot of a man who never dressed. But it also suggests, at least potentially, that Mike Tomlin is not happy with the performance of the defensive line in general, and might at least be interested in seeing what Bryant can do.

Practice Squad Moves

Possibly anticipating their next move, the Steelers signed Jaques McClendon to their practice squad, and waived 7th round pick Jamie McCoy to make room for him.

Observers have speculated that the Steelers will activate offensive lineman John Malecki from their practice squad for the Bengals game to shore up a unit at which they are dangerously thin.

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Alameda Ta’amu Arrested Felon Charges Pending

The 2012 season has not been kind to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the team’s defensive line has earned its fair share of the blame.

One potential source of help may now be off the table, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that the Steelers 4th round draft pick Alameda Ta’amu was arrested on the South Side this weekend after attempting to flee police both by car and the by foot. The incident led to the injury of a young woman and damage of several vehicles. Court documents indicate that Ta’amu allegedly had been driving drunk.

Further Disappointment from a Fourth Round Pick

The Steelers traded up to grab Ta’amu in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft, with many commentators immediately suggesting that Ta’amu was a successor to Casey Hampton. Although no one was projecting him as a starter, many felt he would get significant playing time almost immediately.

However, Ta’amu struggled in training camp and by the middle of the preseason many were already labeling him a “project.”

  • Ta’amu has not dressed for any of the Steelers five 2012 regular season games.

Most people in Steelers Nation (and many outside it) have the impression the Steelers do not tolerate players with off the field discipline problems. The reality, however, is mixed.

Historically the Steelers have parted ways, with a number of players who’ve run afoul of the law, such as Tim Worley and Bam Morris. Players such as James Harrison, Santonio Holmes, and Ben Roethlisberger were ultimately given second chances (although Roethlisberger of course was neither arrested nor charged with a criminal offense.)

It remains to be seen the Steelers will do in the case of Ta’amu.

Suffice to say he can not be endearing himself to Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, and Art Rooney II.

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Hines Ward Arrested for DUI

Sometimes Art Rooney II simply must want to shake his head.

Another off season, and another Steelers player in legal trouble — in Georgia no less.

Both WTAE and PG Plus are both reporting that Steelers stand out wide reciever and Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward was arrested this morning on DUI charges.

Hines Ward’s agent issued the following statement:

On July 9, Hines Ward was stopped by DeKalb County police for suspicion of misdemeanor driving under the influence. He cooperated fully with the police and truthfully answered all of their questions.

We are currently in the process of ascertaining all the facts. From our preliminary investigation, we can tell you that we are confident that the facts will show that Hines was not impaired by alcohol while driving. However, Hines is deeply saddened by this incident and apologizes to his fans and the Steelers organization for this distraction.

That is a pretty strong statement and it is important to note that the charge was DUI and not DWI, the former not even being a felony.

Still, given Roger Goodell’s uneven application of the league’s good conduct policy, one already must entertain the idea Hines Ward could be facing some kind of suspension.

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Watch Tower: The Media’s Role in the Roethlisberger Rejuvenation

And so it begins.

Since throwing his last pass of the 2009 season, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has endured a storm of media criticism and public outcry unparalleled in Steelers history.

Roethlisberger rehabilitation has been underway for some time, but it will shift into high gear as he prepares for his first post-suspension game. The role the media plays in this process will be interesting to watch.

Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower has commented on the press’ performance in the Roethlisberger story, complementing the Tribune Review’s Carl Prine and the Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac for their rock-solid old school journalistic approach to the story, and it has condemned various members of the national media for distorting the facts in their stories.

Now it is time to examine how the media will help, or hinder, Roethlisberger’s ability to resuscitate his public image.

The Press and Relations Between Public Figures

The personal relationship between the press corps and the figures they cover has a tremendous impact on the coverage that the celebrities and/or politicians receive. Elliot King and Michael Schudson. documented this phenomenon in the Columbia Review of Journalism in 1987 in the article “Ronald Reagan and the Press: The Myth of the Great Communicator.”

As Steel Curtain Rising has commented before, King and Schudson’s argument deals with politics, but is readily applied to sports.

Bill Cowher had an often contentious relationship with the press, at least the Pittsburgh press, and one can see this in the fact that the tone of Cowher’s coverage shifted negative very quickly the moment things got rough in the dark days of 1998 and 1999.

Going outside of Steelers Nation, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe provide another example. While space and time do not permit the extensive research needed to prove this point, consider the following:

  • Both were number one picks, and neither lived up to his potential.
  • Bledsoe got his team to a Super Bowl once, and made a huge contribution coming off the bench in the 2001 AFC Championship against the Steelers.
  • Vinny barely sniffed a Super Bowl in his career

Nonetheless, assessments of Bledsoe’s career tend to be far more negative than those of Vinny Testaverde (remember the “Vinny Testaverde is a magician on the football field” United Way ads?)

These observations are far from definitive. They don’t need to be to see that the press regards Testaverde as “a good guy” and regards Bledsoe with far less affection.

Ben and the Press

And so it is with Ben Roethlisberger. He has never been a favorite in the press room.

This much was obvious before Ben was named in a criminal sexual assault allegation in March of 2010.

Despite being the first rookie to go 15-0 as a starter, despite being the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, despite bouncing back from the motorcycle accident and appendectomy, Ben was written off as a “game manager” early in his career.

Even after he led the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, ESPN’s Trent Dilffer rated Roethlisberger as a third tier quarterback.

Ben seemed to both aware and unconcerned with his poor press relations, as his “I ain’t gonna get no Rooney award” comment revealed last year.

Ben’s apparent ambivalence towards his relationship with the press is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Meet Bob Smizik Media Consultant

Writing back in May, the Post-Gazette’s Bob Smizik reported that Ben’s agent had reached out to several in the Pittsburgh media seeking suggestions on how his client might begin “reaching out to the fan base through the media.” Smizik had not been contacted, but he offered his two cents, including:

  • Provide television interviews via Pittsburgh’s stations
  • Make himself available to the media
  • “he needs to look reporters in the eye and be engaged. He needs to call people by their first name when he answers a question”
  • Grant one-on-one interviews

Smizik denied that he wanted Roethlisberger “suck up to the press” by conceded that “Roethlisberger needs to use the media — and the media likes to be used in such a manner — to win back the fans.”

Big Ben, Sticking to Smizik’s Script

Who knows if Ben or one of this representatives read Smizik’s column, but they’re certainly sticking to his script.

Shortly after he joined Steelers OTA’s, Ben granted two exclusive interviews with Pittsburgh TV stations. He did not agree to newspaper interviews, but Ed Bouchette shared with PG Plus readers that made an effort to say “hello” and later granted an off the record chat.

When training camp began, Ben continued to engage the media, and they took notice. On the day that players arrived at St. Vincent’s, reporters were at pains to make sure that everyone knew that how polite Ben was and that Roethlisberger made sure to apologize for bumping into people as he removed his luggage from his car.


None of this is to suggest that either Ben’s attempts to become a better person or the media’s willingness to accept his overtures are insincere.

I really do hope, for his sake, that Ben is making good on his pledge to live a better life. For their part, the media’s first point of reference is always going to be what they see day-to-day.

But the vast majority of Steelers Nation is never going to cross paths with Ben Roethlisberger in a meaningful way. And that means that the only glimpses we’ll catch of “the new Ben” will come through the eyes of the professional press that covers him on a daily basis.

And, as Smizik pointed out for us, Ben’s new found amicability with the press helps ensure that the “new Ben” is the Ben that the public sees.

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Calling Out Roger Goodell

When Roger Goodell took over from Paul Tagliabue continuity was largely the watch word. With one (ok, two) big exceptions – Goodell was going to get tough.

The story was that whereas Tagilabue was worried about off field issues as a PR question, Goodell really wanted to lay down the law.

And for a time, it seems like that is just what he did.

However, Behind the Steel Curtain’s Mary Rose has now taken Roger Goodell to task. I’ll let Mary Rose speak for himself (yes, Mary Rose is a man apparently), but his article exposes Goodell’s shameful hypocrisy for what it is.

Rest assured, this is not dime store defense of Ben Roethlisberger, but it is a pointed portrait of Goodell’s unequal administration of justice in the NFL.

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Roethlisberger to Rejoin Steeler OTAs

Pittsburgh Steelers OTA (that is NFL parlance for “Organized Team Activities” or football in shorts) will be getting a familiar face back.

The Post-Gazette and Tribune Review are both reporting that the NFL has cleared Ben Roethlisberger to return to practices with the team.

In imposing his six game suspension, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell barred Ben from participating in the Steelers spring workouts and/or training game.

The news release by the NFL indicates Roethlisberger’s suspension remains at six games for the time being.

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Watch Tower: Inaccuracies Plague Roethlisberger Coverage

Lest anyone be mistaken by the headline, this article offers no defense of Ben Roethlisberger.

Nor is this thread intended to decry the “one-sided” treatment that Ben has gotten in the press. I am not terribly sympathetic to that argument, but I concede that the article referenced makes some valid points.

In the same vein, others have already pondered the significance of Roger Goodell’s suspension of someone who neither failed a drug test, nor was arrested nor charged with a crime.

Roethlisberger richly deserves the criticism the media vultures are heaping on him. Roethlisberger has granted the press every right to question is locker room presence and leadership skills and rip into to his reputation.

But open season on Roethlisberger does come with one caveat.

  • All criticism of Roethlisberger must be constrained by the facts.

Unfortunately for some, that seems to be a problem.

A Trail of Tears Perhaps, but Not Police Reports’s Gene Wojciechowski is an excellent writer and his analysis of the NFC Central is always worth the read.

He recently lit into Roethlisberger, going as far as to suggest that Dan Rooney, if forced to confess, would admit to regretting not trading for Donovan McNabb.

A stretch? Perhaps. Plausible? Certainly.

But in building up his argument, Wojciechowski takes a little license with the facts.

“Forget, if you can, that Roethlisberger has left a trail of police reports from Lake Tahoe to Milledgeville, Ga.” [Emphasis added.]

Ah, the power of two words. If Wojciechowski had only written “…Roethlisberger has left a trail of sexual assault allegations from Lake Tahoe to Milledgeville” his prose would have been just as lyrically compelling, just as damming. He only would have had to add an extra word.

And he would have had the virtue of being factually correct.

Alas, Wojciechowski’s word choice of “police reports” takes him outside the facts.

One undisputable fact behind the Lake Tahoe allegation is that the woman in question never, ever went to the police.

While the Georgia incident rightly casts the Lake Tahoe allegation in a new light, it changes none of the objective facts on the ground in Nevada.

The woman never called the police, boasted to coworkers about what she had done with Roethlisberger, and even opined that she hoped for a “little Ben.”

Legally there is a world of difference between an accusation in a civil suit and a criminal complaint.

Wojciechowski undoubtedly knows this, but his article brazenly ignores this.


We can only speculate because Steel Curtain Rising has contacted Wojciechowski via email inviting him to comment, and a week later has received no response.

“Let’s Go to the Video Tape” (Or Not)

ESPN’s Adam Schefter

A day or so after Fred Bright announced his decision not to prosecute Ben Roethlisberger, ESPN’s Adam Schefter issued a scathing video commentary on the Steelers quarterback.

Steel Curtain Rising takes no issue with the tone or tenor of Schefter’s remarks.

However, when Schefter offered that that Roethlisberger’s off the field behavior was disrupting the team, he commented that this was not the first incident, reminding everyone of his motorcycle accident and the Nevada affair.

To emphasize how much of a disruption Ben had become for the team, Schefter said that Ben had caused off the field distractions “three straight off seasons,” referencing the motorcycle accident, the Lake Tahoe allegation, and the Georgia allegation.

Later, before concluding his video segment, to drive his point home Schefter again made the “three straight off seasons” remark.

A curious remark to say the least. When told of it my Argentine wife, who knows very little of American football, exclaimed, “but the motorcycle accident happened years ago, didn’t it?”

Almost four years to be exact.

Which of course means that Schefter conveniently simply forgot or ignored the fact that, at least as far as the public has knowledge, Ben’s off the field behavior did nothing to disrupt the Steelers during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

The interesting thing about this, is that the video segment is no longer available on Nor can you find it on YouTube. Perhaps some editor decided to take it off line realizing that, for whatever problems the Nevada and Georgia incidents are causing the Steelers, they were separated by two full years from the motorcycle accident.

Even if this is the case, no mention of Schefter’s error can be found on ESPN’s corrections page nor by the site’s ombudsman. No email address for Schefter is present on the site, so he could not be reached directly.

Riding Off Into the Sun Set

Liberality with the facts is not confined to ESPN, but also extends to the New York Times, one of the United States’ most respected publications.

Arguing that the NFL has not been sufficiently harsh with Roethlisberger in the past, Times columnist William C. Rhoden chides the league for its lax response to Ben’s 2006 motorcycle accident.

Some may regard Rhoden’s position as overzealous, but his logic is sound. If only the same could be said of the facts he marshals to support it:

“Really? A high-profile quarterback riding without a helmet and without a valid motorcycle license nearly kills himself and then says during the mending process that he would ride again — without a helmet. Sure sounds like a cry for help.” [Emphasis added.]

Upon reading this, my first reaction was, “didn’t Ben say just the opposite in this first interviews following the accident….?”

Some quick Google searching confirmed my memory.

Roethlisberger told Good Morning America in the spring/summer of 2006 that he was not sure if he would ride again.

And he told ESPN, in an interview that the Post-Gazette’s Patricia Sheridan cited, that “was not sure if he’d ride again, but if he did it would be with a helmet.”

Steel Curtain Rising asked Mr. Rhoden why he attributed such a statement to Ben Roethlisberger. Inviting him to share an interview where Ben contradicted himself about riding again (with or without helmets) or some other sourced report that confirmed the statement he attributed to Roethlisberger.

Unfortunately, Mr. Rhoden did not respond to an email message.

…Ah But What about the SI Article?

As everyone in Steelers Nation knows, Sports Illustrated just published a cover story on Ben Roethlisberger, and the portrait they painted was not pretty.

But about the only new information they unearthed was to report that Ben has been riding his motorbike without a helmet since the accident.

One report is from an a neighbor who refuses to give his name, and another from an unnamed source at KDKA who says that they filmed Ben riding without a helmet but declined to run the footage, a claim KDKA has denied.

This is an explosive charge which will and should blacken Ben’s image even more if true.

But it changes nothing about Rhoden’s article because:

  • Rohden wrote his article weeks before the SI story
  • He offered no sources to back up his claim, a claim which directly contradicted statements Ben had made to numerous media outlets

And if he had sources, he owed it to his readers to share that with them.

Ben Deserves What His Critics are Calling For…

Ben Roethlisberger only has himself has to blame for the trashing of his image is taking.

Even if the young woman voluntarily entered the bathroom and even if what happened inside was consensual, Ben bought the battering he now suffers lock-stock-and-barrel the moment he shut that door.

It is hard to know what led these established journalists to produce material that contained statements which were factually incorrect. Absent their response, at best one can only presume that it was a lack of inclination to verify key facts, at worst it was a conscious corner cutting with an eye toward spicing up the story.

Either way this is a cause for shame.

It is ironic too. Ben’s critics claim that the public is entitled to know the facts.

They are right of course. The public does deserve the facts

But so does Ben.

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Leftwich Enters Mini Camp First on Depth Chart

Mini-Camp is, as Mike Tomlin says, “football in shorts.” Or, in otherwords, not really a good gauge of well, anything.

However, some real news did come out of the Steelers first mini-camp session.

Two weeks ago Byron Leftwich was buried on the depth chart down in Tampa. Today he is the number one quarterback on the depth chart of a team that is little more than 15 months removed from a historic 6th Super Bowl Championship.

A little dramatic? Perhaps.

But there was some spectulation as to what the Steelers would do in Roethlisberger’s absence. When it looked like Ben Roethlisberger”s suspension would only last a game or two, the Steelers indicated that they’d go with Dennis Dixon as their signal caller.

Now that Ben has been suspended for six games, the Steelers are going with Leftwich, whom they traded for just before the 2010 NFL draft.

The Right Move

Dixon showed a lot of promise in his lone start against Baltimore, and does deserve a chance at the starting job. But Leftwich is a seasoned pro and, on paper at least, gives the Steelers their best chance to win while Ben remains exiled form the team.

A lot could change between now and the Steelers opener against Atlanta, but Mike Tomlin is starting things off on the right foot.

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