2005 Pittsburgh Steelers: Bill Cowher Finally Hands Dan Rooney the Lombardi Trophy

We can be a better football team, I can be a better quarterback and not win 15 games…. We can still win a Super Bowl and not win 15 games.” – Ben Roethlisberger August 2005

We would have no way of knowing it at the time, but Ben Roethlisberger was wise beyond his years. You could describe the Steelers 2004 season in many ways, but “Unplanned” might be the most accurate. After a 6-10, 2003 campaign, nothing was expected of the 2004 Steelers. And that was before they lost their starting quarterback.

Rookie Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to 15 straight wins, until finally falling to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. To Bill Cowher the challenge was to keep maintain “that same look in our eye” now that expectations were high.

Expectations were high. In July none other than Art Rooney II declared “I think for the people who have been around for a while now, I think we all feel like it’s time. We’ve been close and we have to take that last step.”
In other words, “Win the Super Bowl” was the Steelers plan. Ironically, their ability to do that would hinge on their ability to improvise when things did not go as planned.

Bill Cowher, Dan Rooney, Art Rooney II, Super Bowl XL, Steelers vs Seahawks, One for the Thumb, Lombardi Trophy

Bill Cowher hands Dan Rooney the Lombardi Trophy. Photo Credit: AP, via Tribune-Review

Steelers Retooled for a Run

By summer of 2005 the annual exoduses of free agents from Pittsburgh were fading from memory.

Sure the Steelers had lost free agent offensive lineman Oliver Ross and Keydrick Vincent, but Max Starks and Kendall Simmons were essentially upgrades. Chad Scott had gone too, but Ike Taylor was more than ready.

No one was sure, but Randle El was a proven player.

The Steelers also welcomed tight end Heath Miller, their first round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Most importantly, Jerome Bettis decided to return for one final shot at Super Bowl instead of retiring

Championship Closeness Combines with Unexpected Developments

When the Steelers arrived at St. Vincents Jerome Bettis passed out “Super Bowl XL Detroit: The Bus Stops” T-shirts. But all eyes were on Hines Ward’s hold out. Ward had a year on his contract. Dan Rooney did not negotiate with hold outs. He hadn’t made an exception for Franco Harris. Ward would be no different.

Jerome Bettis, Hines Ward, Steelers vs Bengals

Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward in the playoff win against the Bengals. Photo Credit: Tony Tribble, AP via Al.com

But Dan Rooney felt this team had “…the closeness that brings championships” and didn’t want a money squabble poisoning camaraderie. With Jerome Bettis’s help, Rooney talked Hines Ward into reporting and delivered on his promise to treat him fairly.

Ward’s return was welcome in football terms too, because yellow flags flashed around both the Steelers running game and passing game during the 2005 preseason. The plan had been for Duce Staley to serve as the bell cow with Jerome Bettis as his backup.

  • But both Staley and Bettis had health issues during training camp. So Bill Cowher turned to Willie Parker, 2004’s preseason wonder.

Ben Roethlisberger had surprisingly struggled during the 2005 preseason, posting a 32.8 passer rating prompting Bill Cowher to confesses “I like this group of guys, but we’re nowhere near where we need to be.”

Was Willie Parker a legit starting running back? Would Roethlisberger prove to be a one-year-wonder? The Steelers were about to find out.

Season Opens as Planned, But NFL = “Not For Long….”

The 2005 Steelers beat the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans to open the season. Willie Parker ran for 160 yards and 111 yards respectively, while Ben Roethlisberger had an average passer rating of 149.05. The Steelers would be alright with Ben and Willie.

The New England Patriots returned to Pittsburgh on week 3 left as victors yet again, after a 23-21 contest. Next the Steelers traveled to San Diego and defeated the Chargers, but it took a last second Jeff Reed field goal to get them there.

Worse yet, Ben Roethlisberger tweaked his knee during the game.

The Ups and Downs of Understudies

Outsiders have long questions the Steelers practice of keeping 3 quarterbacks but October 2005 would vindicate the franchise’s philosophy.

The Steelers would lose their next game as Tommy Maddox struggled all day, until finally throwing a pick six to Rashean Mathis in overtime.

Big Ben returned, and Pittsburgh rebounded for 2 more wins, but in the 2nd victory over the Ravens, but hetweaked his knee again. Worse yet, both Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis were down with injuries.

And the Steelers were traveling to Lambeau Field, one of the NFL’s most difficult venues to play in.

Troy Polamalu, Brett Favre, Steelers vs Packers

Troy Polamalu strip sacks Brett Favre. Photo Credit: John Biever, SI.com

Fortunately, Bill Cowher had flexibility at backup quarterback and started Charlie Batch started instead. He also had Duce Staley in his bullpen at running back.

  • Neither Duce nor Batch made any fantasy football owners happy that day.
  • Pittsburgh’s best“offensive” play was Troy Polamalu’s 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

But that play, combined with just enough plays by Batch and Staley, put the Steelers over the top.

A week later, Charlie Batch did make a lot of plays in quarterbacking the Steelers to a 17-7 halftime lead, but unfortunately going into halftime he broke his finger during a QB sneak for a touchdown. Tommy Maddox struggled again, but midway through the 3rd quarter Ken Whisenhunt improvised by going to his bag of tricks, as Antwaan Randle El tossed a 51-yard touchdown pass on a fake reverse to Hines Ward that all but iced the game.

Unfortunately, no such magic was on tap a week later as Maddox continued to struggle costing the Steelers an overtime loss, this time to the Ravens.

Challenged, Bill Cowher Challenges as Never Before

Ben Roethlisberger returned for a key Monday Night Football matchup against the 2005 undefeated Indianapolis Colts. While the Steelers kept it closer than the score indicates, the Colts won, 26-7.

That was perhaps to be expected. Ben Roethlisberger has typically struggled his first game back after an injury, and this was one of the games that set this trend. But the following week the Steelers came up short 38-31 to the Bengals, leaving Pittsburgh at 7-5 with a three-game distant second in the AFC North.
Jerome Bettis, Steelers vs Bengals

  • A Post-Gazette photo caption went so far as to suggest that Jerome Bettis questioned his decision to return.

With his back to the wall, Bill Cowher called full pads for practice, something that was unheard of in mid-December. He did something equally meaningful in the meeting room. Cowher had always kept a white board filled with stats, facts and figures that he’d chart progress by updating throughout the season.

Cowher erased the board clean.

As Jerome Bettis explained to Ed Bouchette:

I had been there for 10 years and it’s something he did for a long time. It was always there. We come into the team meeting room and he erased all of it. We’re like, ‘Whoa, the season’s not over. We have four games left.’ And all he said was ‘Chicago. This is it. We’re not looking at all of it, just one game: Chicago.’

With 4 games left in the regular season, Bill Cowher had installed a playoff mindset in his team.
Cowher’s gambit worked.

The next week a 9-4 Chicago Bears team came to Heinz Field, and with Jerome Bettis leading the way in the snow, the Steelers dispatched the Bears 18-6. Next, the Steelers knocked off the Vikings on the road, then clobbered the Browns 41-0 in Cleveland.

Jerome Bettis, Brian Urlacher, Steelers vs. Bears, '05 Steelers

Jerome Bettis shows Brian Urlacher who is boss. Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images via The Sun.

Even though the Steelers still needed to win – and needed help going into the final game of the season, Bob Labriola concluded, “The playoffs are coming, and so are the Steelers.”

So there was no panic on the Pittsburgh sidelines as the Lions went up 14-7 in the final week of the season. The Steelers responded with 3 Jerome Bettis touchdowns and stopped a Lion’s comeback attempt with another touchdown to win 35-21.

The Steelers got the help they needed and were in the playoffs, but as the last seed in the AFC. No last seeded team had ever won a Super Bowl.

Wild Card Game: From Columbus to Cincinnati

This suited Bill Cowher perfectly. Bill Cowher was a motivator, yet his repertoire of stories was limited. Veterans could often finish his speeches for him. .

When the playoffs arrived , Bill Cowher shocked his veterans by reminding them that people had told Christopher Columbus that he would sail off of the edge of the earth. Columbus persisted, discovering the New World.

As Bettis recounted to Ed Bouchette, “’My point is, don’t let history dictate your future, let your future make history.’”

  • History remembers the Steelers Wild Card win over the Bengals as a 31-17 blowout.

What it forgets is that, even after Kimo von Oelhoffen inadvertently knocked Carson Plamer from the game, Cincinnati managed to build up a 17-7 2nd quarter lead. The Steelers made it 17-14 before half time, but in the third quarter the Bengals marched directly toto the Steelers 15.

There punter Kyle Larson tried to run bumbled field goal attempt, fumbled and lost 20 yards in the process. As Mike Pruista of the Tribune-Review observed, at this point Cincinnati’s playoff inexperience grabbed them by the throat and never let go.

By the time Ben Roethlisberger was connecting with Cedrick Wilson on a flea flicker to go up 28-17, the Pittsburgh was playing with Cincinnati.

Divisional Playoffs When Imperfection Fights Perfection Imperfection… Wins?

The only thing missing from the legend of Steelers-Colts 2005 AFC Divisional is narration by the late John Facenda.

The 2005 Colts had been perfect, only losing because they rested starters. The tragic suicide of Tony Dungy’s son had the rest of the league pulling for them. The 2005 Steelers, in contrast, had been anything but perfect.

  • Yet, for the first 3 quarters the Steelers had been absolutely perfect in this game.

Then The Fates decided to make it interesting:

Troy Polamalu, Steelers vs. Colts, 2005 AFC Divisional playoffs

Troy Polamalu’s should have been interception. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Tory Polamalu had a game-sealing interception overturned, which to Colts used to narrow the score to 21-18. Two series later, Joey Porter and James Farrior sacked Peyton Manning on 4th and 6, giving the Steelers the ball on the Colt’s 2. Gary Brackett ended Jerome Bettis’ touchdown attempt with a fumble, and only Ben Roethlisberger’s shoe string tackle saved the day.

  • What everyone remembers after that was Mike Vanderjet’s missed 46-yard field goal.

But Steelers rookie Bryant McFadden authored the critical play on that series. Peyton Manning found Reggie Wayne in the end zone and delivered the ball perfectly. McFadden squared his shoulders, and deflected the pass in what was the best play of his 7 year NFL career.

Perfection fought with imperfection in Indianapolis, and it was an unheralded rookie who swing the balance to the Steelers, sending them to the AFC Championship.

AFC Championship – “Take Me Home!”

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs Broncos, Steelers AFC championship Broncos

Ben Roethlisberger in the 2005 AFC Championship Game. Photo Credit: Denver Post

By the time he traveled to Denver on January 22nd 2006, Bill Cowher had coached in 5 AFC Championships with Jerome Bettis playing in three of those. All of those had been at Three Rivers Stadium or Heinz Field. Cowher had lost 5 of 6 and Bettis all three.

  • If playing at home wasn’t the problem, perhaps getting away from Pittsburgh was part of the solution.

Jerome Bettis grew up in Detroit and he’d never won a championship. The night before the game, he implored his teammates: “Take me home! Take me home.”
The Broncos never had a chance.

Sure, rookie wide receiver Nate Washington turned into a defensive back to make a heads up play to stop a would have been game-changing interception. But that’s precisely the point. Championship teams find ways to make those plays.

When all was said and done, Joey Porter logged a sack, backup lineman Brett Keisel made 2, Larry Foote had an interception, and the Steelers completely neutered the Broncos “Zone Rushing” attack.

On offense, Cedric Wilson, Hines Ward and Jerome Bettis all found the end zone, while Jeff Reed kicked 2 field goals. By the time Ben Roethlisberger rushed for the final score, it really was an insurance touchdown.

  • But the most telling moment of the game came on the sideline.

As Bill Cowher faced Dan and Art Rooney II, shaking hands, his left-hand index finger was raised to form the numeral 1 and he was clearly mouthing, “We’ve still got 1 more game to play!”

Super Bowl XL – the Steelers Make Their Own Fate

You can win Super Bowls several ways. You can dominate out of the gate as the Steelers did to the Vikings in Super Bowl IX. Two fantastic franchises can go toe-to-toe with the best one eking out a win as the Steelers and the Cowboys did in Super Bowl X and Super Bowl XIII. You can make up for inferior talent by outfoxing your opened with better coaching as the Giants did in Super Bowl XXV.

Every coach plans to dominate, probably expects to go toe-to-toe and likely falls back on outfoxing his opponent. But of none of those work one other option remains:

  • Create your own opportunities.

And that’s the route the Steelers took in Super Bowl XL. The Steelers were heavy favorites in Super Bowl XL, but their offense was stuck in 2nd gear for most of the first half. In fact, Seattle held a 3-0 lead for most of the first 30 minutes.

So the Steelers did what they’d done so well all year long – improvise.

Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger was nervous and not playing well. After trying, and failing to connect with Hines Ward through the air, Ben Roethlisberger handed it to him in a reverse. Ward picked up 18 yards. The Steelers didn’t score on that drive, but on the next one they darted around the backfield buying time as Ward made a 37 yard catch that brought the Steelers to the Seahawks 3.

  • When two Jerome Betis runs didn’t get it done, Roethlisberger ran it in himself.

Save the whining Seahawks fans. Sure, the replay is hardly “indisputable,” but the referee who was standing right there had a far better view than the camera angle and he called it a touchdown.

Ken Whisenhunt I
If the Steelers offense had been stalled in the first half, their play calling had forced the Seahawks to adjust their formations, just as Pittsburgh’s coaches expected, as recounted by Alan Faneca in Jim Wexell’s:

“‘Oh, man it worked.” Yes, it did:

That wasn’t “just” a 75 yard run for a touchdown, it was an remains the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history.

Kudos to Ken Whisenhunt.

Ike Taylor
Ben Roethlsiberger would turn over the ball on the Steelers next possession with Kelly Herndon returning it 76 yards. The Seahawks took 4 plays to score. Four series later, Seattle was at it again, driving to Pittsburgh’s 27 yard line, threating to score.

Ike Taylor was a great cornerback who couldn’t hold on to the ball. He had 17 interceptions, regular season and playoffs combined, in his entire 12-year career. Dwayne Woodruff also played 12 years and had 37 in the regular season alone.

  • Matt Hasselbeck thought he had Darrell Jackson open at the five.

Ike Taylor thought better of it, intercepted the ball and returned it 24 yards. Ike didn’t pick off too many passes in his career. But he sure made this one count.

Ken Whisenhunt II
The Steelers got the ball at midfield. A mix and match of runs and short passes earned a first down. Then Ken Whisenhunt went for the knockout punch. Ben Roethlisberger handed to Willie Parker. Parker tossed it to Antwaan Randle El. Randle El kept running his reverse. Ben Roethlisberger threw a block. Hines Ward got open. Randle El released.

The Steelers went up 21-10

Hines Ward, Super Bowl XL, Steelers Super Bowl XL, Antwaan Randle El Hines Ward Super Bowl XL

Hines Ward seals the win in Super Bowl XL. Photo Credit: Bill Frakes, Sports Illustrated

Dicky LeBeau
Seattle still had time. They got the ball back. They advanced to midfield. The Steelers held them, forcing a third down with 8 yards to go. Matt Hasselbeck dropped back to pass. Deshea Townsend came out of nowhere sacking Hasselbeck and forcing a punt.

  • Dick LeBeau’s blitz was a new one, one he’d improvised and installed the night before.

The Steelers fed the ball to Jerome Bettis 7 times on their next 8 plays. Seattle got the ball back but it was too little too late – they turned over on downs.

  • With 3 seconds separating the Steelers from One for the Thumb, Ben Roethlisberger took a final knee.

Minutes later Jerome Bettis and Bill Cowher took tie dais together. Bettis declared “The Bus stops here.”

Bill Cowher finally did what he returned to Pittsburgh to do: He handed Dan Rooney his 5th Lombardi Trophy.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were champions again.

Thanks for visiting. To access our full series on Bill Cowher click here (and scroll up or down).

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More Bad News for Steelers: Anthony Chickillo Arrested for Simple Assault

The 2019 season has not been kind to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who can’t even seem to cut a break during their bye week. According to news reports, backup linebacker Anthony Chickillo was arrested over the weekend for an incident that took place in Wharton Township, Franklin County.

Anthony Chickillo, Steelers Browns 2017 opener, Anthony Chickillo Touchdown

Anthony Chickillo recovers a blocked punt for a touchdown in the 2017 season opener at Cleveland. Photo Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA Today via BTSC

WTAE’s Jim Madalinsky reports that the incident involves Anthony Chickillo’s girlfriend and that it took place at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a luxury complex situated in southwestern Pennsylvania. Steelers PR director Burt Lauten told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “We are aware of an incident involving Anthony Chickillo last night and are still gathering information. Until we have further details we will not provide any further comments.”

  • That’s pretty much a standard boiler plate statement for the Steelers in situations like these.

How the Steelers, and the NFL handle this will bears watching. The NFL has been under fire for its horrendously inconsistent treatment of players involved in or accused of being involved in domestic violence incidents. The Steelers have had their own issues in this regard, going back to 2008 when both Cedric Wilson and James Harrison were involved in domestic violence.

The Steelers cut Cedric Wilson yet gave James Harrison a considerable bit more slack, as Deebo finished the season as NFL Defensive Player of the year (the charges against Harrison were eventually dropped.)

The Steelers drafted Anthony Chickillo in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Entering his fifth season, Anthony Chickillo serves as the primary backup to T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, and has started 9 games in his NFL career. Last spring the Steelers resigned Anthony Chickillo to a 2 year, 8 million dollar contract in free agency. The move came as a bit of a surprise, but word was that the New England Patriots had made a similar and slightly higher offer.

Beyond Anthony Chickillo the Steelers also have Ola Adeniyi as a reserve outside linebacker.

When the bye week arrives, Mike Tomlin reputedly tells his players, “Don’t get yourselves in the news.” Chickillo it seems, wasn’t apparently listening.

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Pittsburgh Steelers History vs the New Orleans Saints – a 31 Year Retrospective

The Steelers history against the New Orleans Saints has Pittsburgh taking a 7-8 record down to the Big Easy where the Steelers are 4-5 vs. 3-3 at Heinz Field and Three Rivers Stadium.

As the Steelers prepare for their 10th trip to New Orleans for a game that could make or break their 2018 season, here is a look at highlights of the Steelers last 31 years of history against the Saints.

Steelers history vs Saints, Antonio Brown, P.J. Williams

Antonio Brown stiff arms P.J. Williams. Photo Credit: USA Today Sports via, Tribune-Review

1987 – Steelers Playoff Potential Nothing More than a Tease

November 29th @ Three Rivers Stadium
New Orleans 20, Pittsburgh 17

The 1987 Steelers were looking to build on a 6-4 record as Pittsburgh was very much alive in the AFC Central playoff picture during that strike shortened season. The Steelers took a 14-3 lead into the locker room at half time on the strength of a Dwayne Woodruff pick six and a Walter Abercrombie touchdown.

However, Pittsburgh faltered in the 2nd half as the Saint scored 17 unanswered points, aided by 3 Mark Malone interceptions. The Saints took an intentional safety at the end of the game to bring Pittsburgh to within 4, but the Steelers could not mount a comeback.

  • The game was typical of the 1987 Steelers who teased playoff potential but ultimately fell short against a quality Saints team.

1990 – Joe Walton’s Ineptitude on Full Display in Steelers win

December 16, 1990 @ The Superdome
Pittsburgh 9, New Orleans 6

The 1990 Steelers entered the game with a 7-6 record and an an offense floundering under Joe Walton’s mismanagement. And this game shows just how badly Joe Walton had neutered the 1990 Steelers offense, as a single Gary Anderson field goal were the only points it could score for 3 quarters.

  • Bubby Brister only threw for 154 yards passing, while Merril Hoge and Tim Worley couldn’t combine to break the 100 yard rushing mark.

For its part, the Steelers defense held the Saints to two Morten Andersen second half field goals, until Gary Anderson booted two more 4th quarter field goals to give the Steelers the win.

  • The 1990 Steelers went 9-7 yet only one two games against teams that finished with winning records. This was one of them.

1993 – Rod Woodson’s Career Day

October 17th 1993 @ Three Rivers Stadium
Pittsburgh 37, New Orleans 14

The 1993 Steelers started 0-2 leading many to question whether Cowher Power’s 1992 debut had been a mirage. But Pittsburgh won its three games, leading up to a showdown with the then undefeated Saints.

Rod Woodson intercepted Wade Wilson’s opening pass and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown. Two series later Rod Woodson picked off Wilson again. On Pittsburgh’s next procession, Neil O’Donnell hit Barry Foster for a 20 yard touchdown pass, and the Steelers were leading 14-0 in less than 8 minutes.

  • And Pittsburgh was just warming up.

By half time the Steelers were up 24-0, and the Saints hadn’t even managed a first down. Carnell Lake intercepted Wade Wilson’s first pass of the second half, which made way for two more Gary Anderson field goals, followed by an Eric Green touchdown.

Wade Wilson had arrived in Pittsburgh as the NFL’s number 3 passer, only to have the Steelers intercept him three times and limit him to 6 completions on the day as Donald Evans, Levon Kirkland, Joel Steed and Kevin Greene sacked him 5 times.

  • While the 1993 Steelers would ultimately underachieve, this game revealed that their championship potential was real.

2002 – Poor Defense Dooms Tommy Gun’s First Start

October 6th, 2002 @ The Superdome
New Orleans 32, Pittsburgh 29

The 2002 Steelers had started 0-2 and only won in week three thanks to a blocked field goal plus Bill Cowher’s decision to bench Kordell Stewart late in the game for Tommy Maddox.

But the Steelers defense gave up 13 points early in the game before Tommy Maddox and Plaxico Burress connected to get Pittsburgh on the board before the half. The Steelers mounted a spirited effort in the 2nd half with Jerome Bettis, Hines Ward and Terance Mathis scoring touchdowns, the but Saints scored 13 points to keep ahead of the Steelers.

  • The game confirmed, if there had been any doubt, that the once vaunted Steelers secondary was a shell of its former self.

2006 – Ben Roethlisberger vs Drew Brees I

November 12th, 2006 @ The Superdome
Pittsburgh 38, New Orleans 31

The 2006 Steelers took a Super Bowl Hangover induced 2-6 record to New Orleans to face the 6-2 Saints. Fireworks ensued as the Saints and Steelers fought to a 24 to 17 half time score. The Steelers fought back in the second half, scoring as Ben Roethlisberger connected for a touchdown to Cedric Wilson in the air as Willie Parker ran for two more on the ground.

Deuce McAllister put the Saints within striking distance of a comeback with a fumble returned for a touchdown with 8:31 remaining in the 4th quarter. But the Steelers defense burned nearly 4 minutes off of the clock, and closed the game as Tyrone Carter and Ryan Clark teamed up to end a Saints comeback effort with a forced fumble and recovery.

  • The game marked the 6-2 rebound of the 2006 Steelers that would ultimately allow Bill Cowher to retire during a non-losing season.

2010 – Ben Roethlisberger vs Drew Brees II

October 31st, 2010 @ The Superdome
New Orleans 20, Pittsburgh 10

If the first battle between Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees was a shootout, their second meeting took on the character of a slug fest.

Both teams were scoreless during the entire 1st quarter, and when they both got on the board in the 2nd quarter it was only with field goals. In the second half New Orleans put 10 points on the board, but the Steelers moved to within three on a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown.

However, the Steelers defense couldn’t hold on, as Drew Brees connected with Lance Moore at just over the two minute mark to give the Saints a 10 point lead. Ben Roethlisberger attempted to rally the Steelers and got them to mid field but Leigh Torrence intercepted him as he attempted to hit Mike Wallace.

  • Lot’s of commentators suggested that this loss spelled gloom and doom for the 2010 Steelers, but the tam of course finished in Super Bowl XLV.

2014 – Ben Roethlisberger vs Drew Brees III

November 30th, 2014 @ Heinz Field
New Orleans 35, Pittsburgh 32

Don’t let the close score fool you. The Saints marched into Heinz Field and blew out the Steelers, with Pittsburgh only getting in theoretical striking distance of pulling ahead thanks to a 2 point conversion pass to Lance Moore, of all players, as time expired.

  • The story of this game was Ben Roethlisberger.

The offensive line gave him time, Heath Miller and Antonio Brown served as reliable targets, but Ben Roethlisberger’s passes were too often off target. Roethlisberger threw two picks, but that number could have easily been double.

Drew Brees only threw for 257 yards, but he threw 5 touchdowns, as an unknown Kenny Stills lit up the Steelers defense for 162 yards.

  • This was Brett Keisel’s last game, Troy Polamalu’s final regular season game, Ike Taylor’s penultimate game and the final time the trio was to play with James Harrison.
  • This late November loss to the Saints seemed to signal that Pittsburgh was nothing more than average, but the 2014 Steelers rebounded for 4 straight wins

The Steelers history vs the New Orleans Saints offers a mixed bag, with both some impressive wins and tough losses. But none of the outcomes had season-defining implications. Today’s contest could be quite different in that respect.

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Watch Tower: Steelers Security Chief Jack Kearney vs. ESPN’s Outside the Lines

Today the Watch Tower focuses its light firmly on ESPN’s Outside the Lines report on the Steelers Security Chief Mr. Kearney.

To read the The Watch Tower analysis of ESPN’s Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada’s piece either click on a critique of a specific element of their story, or scroll down to read it all:

OTL Attempts to Peer Behind the Steel Curtain

The Pittsburgh Steelers work hard to maintain an image of integrity. And while the Steelers don’t deserve the saintly status that many fans (including this site at times) seek to confer on them, they do run one of the cleaner shops in the NFL.

  • An ESPN Outside the Lines Report on Steelers Security Chief Jack Kearney will challenge that notion.

The full report will not air until Sunday January 25, but ESPN released a detailed teaser on ESPN.com. If the teaser is any indication, this promises to be an interesting piece of journalism.

Steelers Nation Meet Steelers Security Chief Jack Kearney

The Steelers list approximately 75 non-football employees in their 2014 Media Guide. But you won’t find Jack Kearney’s name. That’s because as Steelers Security Chief Jack Kearney is supposed to keep a low profile and until now he’s largely done a good job.

  • In 26 years of actively following the Steelers, the term “security chief” or “head of security” only came up once.

And that was in an article detailing how imposers claimed to be players from the Steelers in order to swindle people out of their money. An article discussed the matter, and quoted Kearney.

Perhaps the Steelers don’t list him because they prefer to keep the focus on football. Regardless of reason, since taking the job in 2001 Steelers Security Chief Jack Kearney has remained in the shadows.

That is about to change thanks to ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

ESPN’s OTL Swings the Hatchet at Steelers Jack Kearney

The crux of the ESPN piece on Steelers Security Chief Jack Kearney is that his dual roles as a member of the Allegheny Sheriff’s department and Steelers Security Chief create a conflict of interest.

Indeed, ESPN’s Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada discovered that Kearney’s nick name is “The Cleaner” because he is “the longtime point man on messy Steelers business.”

Every organization of any consequence is going to have someone who acts, officially or unofficially, as designated a trouble shooter. It’s a role you see in popular media ranging from “good guys” like George Clooney’s character in Michael Clayton, to pleasantly humored “bad guys” such as “Mr. Wolf” in Pulp Fiction.

Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada make no bones about which category they place Steelers Security Chief Jack Kareney into:

Kearney earned his colorful nickname by using his authority to smooth over and manage a variety of thorny legal issues involving the Steelers, according to an “Outside the Lines” examination of court documents and police records, and interviews with law enforcement officers, lawyers and players.

And just what are those “thorny legal issues?” Continuing from the same paragraph:

Sheriff’s deputies are prohibited by policy from holding off-duty positions with “any potential for a conflict-of-interest,” but on numerous occasions, Kearney has acted on the Steelers’ behalf: expediting gun permits for players, providing damage control on a domestic violence case and delivering 24-hour assistance that sometimes blurs the lines between law enforcement agent and protector, according to multiple sources in and out of the sheriff’s office.

That’s pretty harsh, and Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada are only getting started.

Deconstructing OTL vs. Jack Kearney – The Case of Cedric Wilson

Steelers Nation remembers the Cedric Wilson incident because of Dan Rooney controversial explanation of why the Steelers cut Wilson but treated James Harrison differently.

  • However, Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada have unearthed Kearney’s role in the incident, suggesting he acted questionably.

So what exactly did he do?

When Wilson’s name first got into the papers it was because his girlfriend fired a gun at the wall which led to a stand off with police. Kareney learned of the incident, called Wilson who was in route to Memphis and convinced him to return to Pittsburgh. Wilson himself confirms “Jack pretty much advised me to come back, like this was an issue of mine that needed to be dealt with.”

  • The Watch Tower fails to find anything unethical about that

Two weeks later Wilson was in the press again, as he was alleged to have stormed into a bar and punched his girlfriend, after which, “That night, according to two sources, Kearney tried to contain the damage by asking people familiar with the incident not to divulge that Wilson had been with other Steelers players before the incident occurred.”

  • Again, the Watch Tower fails to see how such actions suggest an abuse of power, authority, or position.

If no other Steelers were involved why should their names be connected? But no publicly reported evidence indicated a connection then, nor did OTL uncover any link now.

In the case of Cedric Wilson, the Watch Tower is forced to conclude that Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada hatchet swung and missed.

Deconstructing OTL vs. Jack Kearney – The case of Richard Seigler

One of the most serious charges Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada level against Kareney is that he interfered with the arrest of former Steeler Richard Seigler. Again, OTL’s dynamic duo mince no words:

Kearney clashed with federal marshals in 2007 after they sought to execute an arrest warrant on a Steelers linebacker. [Emphasis added]

That’s a pretty serious allegation, but the Watch Tower fault’s Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada defense of it.

The Marshals contacted the Steelers to arrange the arrest and a public relations staffer informed Kearney even though the PR staffer was not supposed to. The question which the Watch Tower asks but OTL fails to is quite simple:

“If the US Marshal were giving advanced notice that the Steelers they were going to arrest a player on the South Side, why would they call the Steelers PR department in the first place?”

  • Seriously, anyone with elementary understanding of law enforcement should be asking that question. Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada fail mightily here.

Regardless, Seigler was absent the next morning, and as OTL explains:

Gallagher said some marshals believed the Steelers, instead of following the agreement, had tipped off Seigler, turning what was lined up to be an easy arrest into a daylong search that required additional resources and manpower.

Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada clearly want the reader to believe that Kearney that person, despite the fact that:

  • Kearney supplied them with Seigler’s address
  • He then supplied them with an alternate address when Marshal’s couldn’t locate him
  • Kearney denied under oath that that he had contributed to the delay in making the arrest
  • William P. Mullen, Allegheny County’s Sheriff found no evidence of misconduct on Kearney’s part
  • Joseph A. Rizzo, another Allegheny deputy, also said under oath that Kearney did nothing wrong

Credit Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada for doing their research and constructing a clever narrative that appears to call Kearney’s role into question. But quite frankly, the evidence they marshal to support their claim falls flat.

Deconstructing OTL vs. Jack Kearney – Expediting Gun Permit Approvals

OTL also cites cases where Steelers Security Chief Jack Kearney managed to expedite the processing of gun permits for Steelers.

This is one of the few cases where Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada actually get someone on the record. Gail Carter explained how Kearney would reduce standard 2 week wait times down to 15 minutes, often coming in at the end of the day.

  • This is one criticism OTL’s which is both legitimate and substantiated

Based in Buenos Aires, the Watch Tower has seen more than his fair share of cases where “knowing someone” speeds up a long and arduous process; it’s nice when it works for you, but ultimately bad for society as a whole.

Note, however, that Carter clearly indicated that all legal background checks were followed, so Kearney was only helping players jump to the front of the line. While the Watch Tower agrees this is unethical and undesirable it is hardly a damming offense.

Deconstructing OTL vs. Jack Kearney – The Mike Adams Stabbing

OTL’s most detailed allegation involves Mike Adam’s 2013 stabbing, where a series of incidents “made clear the conflicts that many believe are unavoidable.” At issue are the fact that:

  • The police called Kearney first
  • Kearney spoke with Adams in the hospital – even before detectives did
  • Adams story changed the morning after the incident
  • Kearney moved Adams car to the Steelers parking lot
  • Kearney participated in the manhunt for one of men who was allegedly involved in the incident

OTL relies on Beth Pittinger, executive director of Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board – which does not oversee the sheriff’s office – to address the decision of the police to call the Steelers. Pittinger declares:

Steeler security, even if it wasn’t a deputy sheriff, should never have been contacted by the city cops. It just seems unseemly. It seems shady. It seems suspicious.

That’s one person’s view and someone who has some qualifications to speak on the subject. But Pittinger fails to say why the police calling the Steelers to inform them of Adams arrest is “shady.”

Had you or I been stabbed on the South Side, the police probably wouldn’t have called our employers. But when someone’s been injured and needs to go to the hospital, calling a next of kin or someone close to the victim is common place, and as Steelers Security Chief, Jack Kearney would be a logical, and easy call to make, especially if Adams condition prevented him from supplying another name.

  • That’s a highly relevant angle to the story that Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada ignore.

Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada also fail to provide any journalistic evidence that there was something untoward about Kearney’s visit to the hospital.

  • Who wouldn’t rush to the hospital if you heard that a friend or coworker had been stabbed?
  • Did Kearney break a rule or law in talking to Adams? OTL neither claims that nor offers proof
  • Did Kearney’s conversation with Adams lead him to alter his story?

Again, Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada can offer no “sources” to claim he does. Yes, it is a little eye brow raising, but how many stories change after blood alcohol content drops from .190 to normal?

Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada really want you to think Kearney’s driving Mike Adam’s car back to the Steelers parking lot is ominous, implying that he tainted evidence, but Kearney’s boss Mullen indicates that “the crime scene was released by the investigating supervisor.” In other words, Kareney was legally free to move the truck.

  • Again, if the evidence really was vital to the case, then OTL should find fault with the Pittsburgh police and not Kearney.

On the charge that Kearney’s participation in the man hunt for one of the alleged attackers, OTL is on solid ground, there does appear to be a conflict of interest. Kearney should not have participated, although they fail to cite any evidence that he acted inappropriately during the man hunt.

OTL vs. Steelers Security Chief Jack Kearney – Sensationalistic, Shoddy Journalism

Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada are no amateurs. Both are co-authors of the New York Times best-seller League of Denial alleging the NFL’s cover up of head trauma. The Watch Tower is not familiar with that book or with their other work, but clearly these are not amateur journalists.

  • But they’re guilty of shoddy journalism in covering Steelers Security Chief Jack Kearney.

That’s harsh, but justified. Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada have done their research. They’ve exposed an important, previously unknown figure from one of the NFL’s most popular franchises. They’ve found his “finger prints” behind the scenes in several incidents that Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II clearly wish had not happened.

  • But they’ve found very few people to speak on the record.

And as we’ve shown, most the examples they cite to impeach Kearney’s credibility wilt under the Watch Tower’s bright lights. Some of the criticisms they’ve leveled at Kearney should be aimed at others. In other cases they fail, intentionally or unintentionally, to ask common sense questions.

ESPN’s OTL’s story on the Steelers Security Chief Jack Kearney will doubtlessly generate good ratings and continued Google hits for days to come. But that doesn’t lend any credibility Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada’s conclusions.

As both Steelers Security Chief and deputy sheriff Jack Kearney might have taken some questionable actions, but he doesn’t appear to be the seedy, corrupt character OTL wants you to think he is.

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Dan Rooney Must Choose His Words More Carefully

Domestic violence is a very serious issue, the Rooneys were right to take strong action when a second Steelers was involved in a domestic dispute in the span of eleven days.

But Dan Rooney dropped a verbal bombshell with comments explaining why the team decided to cut Cedric Wilson after he hit his wife but not James Harrison after he had done the same Rooney stated:

What Jimmy Harrison was doing and how the incident occurred, what he was trying to do was really well worth it,” Rooney said of Harrison’s initial intent with his son. “He was doing something that was good, wanted to take his son to get baptized where he lived and things like that. She said she didn’t want to do it.

Just as there is no excuse for domestic violence, there is no excuse for anything but a clear condemnation of it.

  • Rooney’s clarification later in the day, helped rectify things somewhat, but the damage has been done.

The Steelers are one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, and the Rooney’s rightly hold a reputation for integrity in the league.

Cedric Wilson’s crime was clearly premeditated, and if the Steelers if they want to judge player indiscretions on an individual basis, that is their right.

But both men committed a crime, and with respect to that fact, Rooney’s statement should not have left any room for equivocation.

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