Deflatgate is spurred the New England Patriots and their fans to fight back. Unable claim innocence, wish to claim “Everyone else does it” and thereby bring the rest of the NFL down into the muck with them.
“Your Team Cheats” provides an example. Your Team Cheats attempts to rank instances of cheating across the league. Steelers Nation will not like their conclusions. Your Team Cheats charges that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the NFL’s 2nd worst cheats, after the Denver Broncos.
Your Team Cheats charges the Steelers with ten individual instances of cheating and includes the Steelers in four more league wide cheating allegations.
How well do their claims hold up? The Watch Tower takes a look.
Mike Tomlin shakes hands with Bill Belichick shake hands after Steelers 2013 loss @ New England
Your Team Cheats Strongest Arguments Against Steelers
Your Team Cheats’ best argument against the Steelers comes in the case of Dr. Richard Rydze who was charged with distributing steroids, human growth hormone and other illegal substances. Dr. Richard Rydze was a Steelers team doctor from 1985 to 2007.
The blunt truth is that this story has been underreported both in Pittsburgh and nationally, something which was to be (and might still become) the focus of a Watch Tower column
- Having a doctor on staff for over 20 years who gets busted for steroid distribution looks very bad and his exact role with the Steelers deserves greater investigation.
Yet, Your Team Cheats fails to break ground here and provides no evidence whatsoever that Dr. Rydze was involved in distributing steroids to members of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Instead the site simply links to other pages on the site.
One of those does site Paul Wiggins and Joel Steed’s substance abuse violations, but fails to mention that Steed was using an over-the-counter supplement which happened to contain banned ingredients.
Your Team Cheats brings “Shoulderpadgate” or the Steelers illegal off season use of shoulder pads in 1978, a violation for which the Steelers were docked a third round pick. Really, there’s little to dispute here.
- The Steelers broke the rules, got caught and were punished.
However, the one can question the tone of Your Team Cheats conclusions as current ESPN reporter John Clayton broke the story, and while the Steelers weren’t happy about it, Art Rooney Sr. later complemented him on it, and Clayton built a strong relationship with Noll afterwards (and Noll was not known for his warm media relations.)
- The Watch Tower takes no issue with Your Team Cheats assessment of Emmanuel Sanders getting fined for faking cramps.
Likewise, one cannot quibble about Your Team Cheats on Mike Tomlin’s sideline stutter step vs. Baltimore in 2013. Intentionally or unintentionally, Mike Tomlin clearly broke the rules. But, to be blunt, had Your Team Cheats done more thorough research, the site could have made a stronger case.
That’s the downside of doing selective or at least incomplete research, which as the Watch Tower will make clear, seems to be the MO of Your Team Cheats.
Your Team Cheats Empty Arguments Against the Steelers
Your Team Cheats makes a number of bogus claims against the Steelers when it comes to cheating.
First, Your Team Cheats levies 5 cheating points against the Steelers for incidents of illegal hits. The idea of including illegal hits into an analysis of cheating is inane, because there’s a big difference between making a hit in a heat of a game that happens to be illegal and premeditated deliberate rule breaking.
Your Team Cheats summary of the Steelers cheating includes entries for Tampergate, Headsetgate, Spygate, and Scrapsgate. Note, the site doesn’t add “cheat points” to the Steelers score for these instances and adds no evidence whatsoever that the Steelers participated in any of these, aside from Bill Cowher’s statement that the Steelers would try to decode opposing team’s signals (without the use of illegal video.)
Your Team Cheats could, for example, cite a single case where the Steelers signed a recently cut or a practice squad player of an upcoming opponent, but fails to do so (in part, because the Steelers don’t do that.)
But that’s what Your Team Cheats would do if the site were a legitimate investigation into NFL rules infractions. But not the objective, instead the site’s objective is to suggest guilt by association.
Your Team Cheats on Steroids and the Steelers of the 70’s
Your Team Cheats makes a big deal about steroid use by the Steelers of the 70’s. Let’s be clear on something:
- Members of the Super Steelers used steroids.
No one can dispute that. A handful of players have admitted to it. Steve Courson suggested before his death that there were many more members who needed to fess up.
To bolster its case, Your Team Cheats recycles comments by Jim Hasslett and Fran Tarkenton. He even recycles Hasllets hackneyed charge that the Steelers of the 70’s were “the ones who kind of started” use of steroids in the NFL.
It’s also inaccurate. The use of steroids in pro football dates back to at least 1963, when Sid Gillman’s strength coach Alvin Roy actively encouraged his players to use Dianabol and went as far as put them on the team’s training table in cereal bowls.
- Use of steroids in pro football began long before Chuck Noll ever drafted his first player for the Steelers.
Your Team Cheats directly suggests that steroid use taints the Steelers 4 Super Bowl victories. Were the Steelers the only NFL team using steroids in the 1970’s? Your Team Cheats doesn’t say that, but the use of the Hasslett quote implies that the Steelers were somehow responsible for league-wide steroid use in the 70’s.
Both Jim Hasslett and Randy White (the later quoted in Gary Pomerantz’s Their Life’s Work) claim how their assumptions that the Steelers of the 70’s were using steroids prompted them to begin using…
…So if a high school guy starts drinking underage after getting dumped a girl who is also an underage drinker is the ex-girlfriend then to blame?
I daresay not, and steroid use in the NFL cannot be pinned on the Super Steelers.
- Your Team Cheats gives the Steelers 7.0 “cheat points” for the use of steroids in the 70’s.
There’s a problem with that. Steroids were not banned by the NFL nor were they even illegal until the 1980’s.
- Use of steroids is wrong on so many levels. Both the members of the Super Steelers as well as their opponents were wrong to use steroids in the 70’s.
But that doesn’t change the fact that if steroids weren’t illegal, then using them cannot be considered cheating.
Your Team Cheats on the Steelers and the 1975 AFC Championship Game
Were Al Davis still alive, it would be possible, and perhaps even plausible to suggest that he was Your Team Cheats source here. This story is part of Steeler-Raiders lore. The tarp covering the field at Three Rivers Stadium the night before the 1975 AFC Championship game tore, causing parts of the field to be icy.
The winter winds in Pittsburgh get pretty wicked. Tarps do tear, and water does freeze when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. Al Davis argument is that the tear was intentional, that the Steelers iced down the sidelines to weaken the Raiders deep passing game.
- This debate is ancient history, and only gets rehashed by Raider apologists
Your team cheats justification for toeing the Al Davis line boils down to “A groundskeeper who’s nickname is “Dirt” is always on top of his field conditions.” Ergo Steelers grounds keeper Dirt Dinardo did it. With an airtight case like that, is it any wonder this didn’t make it to the Supreme Court? One might suppose that, given the uncanny accuracy of his weather reports, longtime WTAE weatherman Joe DeNardo is also responsible for the wind, rain and cold in Pittsburgh that night.
- The entire logic behind Al Davis’excuse making is fundamentally flawed.
Changes to field conditions impacted the Steelers as much as the Raiders. The Steelers could not hurt the Raiders deep passing game without hurting their own. In 1975 Lynn Swann averaged 15.9 yards per catch, Frank Lewis 18.1 yards per catch, and John Stallworth 21.2 yards per catch…
Yeah, the Steelers strategy was to keep Terry Bradshaw from going deep.
Your Team Cheats on the Steelers and Salarycapgate
Perhaps Your Team Cheats most egregious entry on the Steelers involves “Salarcapgate” which relates to an incident in 1998 that ultimately led the Steelers to lose their 3rd round draft pick in 2001.
- The facts here are well known, and that’s why Your Team Cheats sleight of hand is so apparent here.
Although he never made a Pro Bowl, for nearly 10 years John Jackson protected Bubby Brister, Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak and Kordell Stewart’s blindsides. When he became a free agent in 1998, the San Diego Chargers made Jackson the highest paid offensive lineman in the league at the time.
- The Steelers opted not to over pay.
Near the end of preseason it was clear the Steelers had no one to play right tackle, so Bill Cowher moved Justin Strzelczyk to the right side and moved guard Will Wolford to left tackle. Wolford’s original contract had called for him to be paid an additional $400,000 should he play tackle instead guard. Unfortunately page of the contract containing that clause got left off and was never filed with the league.
Will Wolford’s agent remembered brought it to Dan Rooney’s attention who also remembered the original agreement, and the Steelers honored their word and paid Wolford. Knowing that this money needed to be accounted for, the Steelers turned themselves in to the league office. The league investigated, and took away the Steelers 2001 third round draft pick.
- This isn’t want you’ll read on Your Team Cheats, however.
Your Team Cheats cites an article from the New York Times and the Bangor Daily News (that lifeblood of NFL information) and tells readers:
The league determined that the Steelers made an undisclosed commitment to pay Wolford $400,000 that violated the league’s rules governing the size of team payrolls. The Steelers were ordered to pay Wolford the $400,000 and another $150,000 to the league as a penalty.
- How sinister of the Steelers! They both made an “undisclosed commitment to pay Wolford $400,000” AND were “ordered”” to pay the $400,000 to Wolford.
Through all of this, Your Team Cheats neglects to tell readers that, far from trying to hide something, the Steelers turned themselves in to the NFL! Nor does he tell readers that the Steelers also took a $400,000 salary cap hit, while the 49ers avoided taking a similar salary cap hit for a more extensive case of salary cap cheating just 8 months later.
In all fairness, there’s a lot of information on the Steelers salary cap incident with Will Wolford which doesn’t instantly pop up when you Google it. But that’s no excuse, as a little extra digging did produce the links referenced above.
Your Team Cheats Debunked by Shoddy Research and Selective Use of Facts
When held up to the Watch Tower’s light, most of Your Team Cheat charges against the Steelers fail to stick. What could have been an honest assessment of rules infractions in the NFL instead turns into a gigantic attempt at guilt by association.
- While Your Team Cheats uses links and discusses methodology in an attempt to add an air of objectivity to its findings, its research and application of the facts is selective at worst and incomplete at best.
For example, the New York Giants were founded in 1925 and the Baltimore Ravens were established in 1996. Yet they both have cheating scores of 35. That math simply doesn’t add up. Likewise, Your Team Cheats analysis of the Washington Redskins fails to take into account something which was once a stable of franchise policy which could be considered “cheating” at least by the site’s overly broad standards.
For the record, with Your Team Cheats debunked by the Watch Tower on behalf of Steelers Nation, the author of the site doesn’t seem to have any particular axe to grind against the Steelers. Rather Your Team Cheats is simply another site engaging in the 19th “art” of muckraking.