Too Bad Mike Tomlin Can’t Run the Oklahoma Drill at St. Vincents

Tomorrow the Steelers put the pads on at St. Vincents. Football in shorts will have ended. The sorting between the men and the boys will begin. As Peter King remarked two years ago, Mike Tomlin is one of the last NFL coaches to practice full speed hitting in training camp.

  • It says here that is a wise move.

As Jack Lambert remarked, “I believe the game is designed to reward the ones who hit the hardest. If you can’t take it, you shouldn’t play.”

Steelers training camp hitting

Unlike other teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers STILL hit in training camp. Photo Credit: MMQB

And conditioning yourself to hit doesn’t come through simulation. So its good that the Steelers will do some hitting in Latrobe.

  • But it would be better if Mike Tomlin could run the Oklahoma Drill.

The NFL, in an attempt to reduce head trauma banned the Oklahoma Drill along with a number of other traditional hitting drills. The blunt truth is, this is a wise move. After the tragedies of Mike Webster, Justin Strzelczyk, Terry Long and Adrian Robinson, Steelers Nation needs no reminder of the existential threat that CTE poses to football.

  • But that doesn’t change the reality that something is lost even as player safety gains.

Advocates of the ban point to the fact that Oklahoma Drill doesn’t really help develop any skill, and therefore exposes players to unnecessary head trauma. They have a point. But, as much as it pains me to quote him, so did Bill Belichick when he explained that these Oklahoma Drill did answer these important questions: “Who is a man? Who’s tough? Who’s going to hit somebody?”

  • The Oklahoma Drill pits a defender against an offensive player and sometimes a ball carrier in a test of wills.

They line up 3 yards off the ball and the offensive lineman and the defender tussle until the defender is knocked to the ground, or the ball carrier is tackled or disrupted from his one yard corridor. Chuck Noll used to start training camp with the Oklahoma Drill.

  • Rookie Joe Greene famously tossed Ray Mansfield like a rag doll and anhililated every other offensive lineman in his first Oklahoma Drill.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have regressed each of their past two seasons. The team, along with Ben Roethlisberger, served as a veritable punching bag during the 2019 off season. What better way for Mike Tomlin to set the tone than by asking for volunteers to run say a half dozen Oklahoma Drills?

How about letting Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor start their competition for the starting right tackle slot by squaring off against Cam Heyward in an Oklahoma Drill? Why not acquaint Mark Barron and Benny Snell Jr. with what it means to be a Steelers by making the former fight through David DeCastro  to get to the latter?

Joe Greene’s famous Oklahoma Drill exhibition came on his very first snap of training camp practice. Dick Hoak says that veteran defensive lineman who were watching Greene openly talked about packing their bags. Andy Russell pinpoints this as the key moment when Pittsburgh pivoted from being a perennial loser, to transforming into the best football team the story has or ever will see.

There are a lot of things Mike Tomlin can do to transform this Pittsburgh Steelers squad into a champion this summer at St. Vincents. Sadly, however the Oklahoma Drill won’t be one of the tools at his disposal.

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Is Former Steelers Fullback Jon Witman Doomed to Become CTE’s Next Victim? Let’s Hope Not

Disconcerting. That describes my reaction to the headline “Former Steelers fullback Jon Witman pleads guilty to DUI crash.” For the record, Jon Witman was on a painkiller and a muscle relaxer when he ran a stop sign and crashed into a tree. Clearly Witman wasn’t on any sort of drunken rampage.

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s headline specifies a “2nd DUI crash” but only details the stop sign and tree incident. There’s more to Jon Witman’s story, it is not pretty, at least potentially, and it hits home for this writer.

Jon Witman, steelers fullback jon witman, 2001 steelers afc championship loss patriots

A distraught Jon Witman after the Steelers 2001 AFC Championship loss to the Patriots. Photo Credit: Matt Freed, Post-Gazette

Jon Witman and the Upshaw Players Assistance Trust

It’s ironic that we often get less news in the age when publishers no longer need worry about ink and page space limitations. A quick (and admittedly incomplete) Google search reveals that most of the news outlets ran the same AP stub on Jon Witman that appeared in the Tribune Review.

  • No one offered details regarding Witman’s other crash.
  • No one hinted that a bigger backstory might lay behind Witman’s latest brush with the law

That’s a shame, because the last time Steelers Nation saw Jon Witman’s name in the news, USA Today sports writer Tom Pelissero was presenting Witman as a success story of the Gene Upshaw Players Assistance Trust. As Pelissero detailed, Witman was out of money, depressed, hooked on pain killers and literally had a gun to his head until the sight of his son walking into the room convinced him not to pull the trigger.

  • Michelle Witman called the NFLPA, which led to Witman spending time in detox and rehab for a methadone habit.

The article reported that assistance had gotten Witman sober, but that the former NFL running back still struggled with pain from back and ankle fusion surgeries. While Pelissero pulled no punches describing Witman’s post-NFL struggles, his December 2015 article did suggest that Jon Witman had turned a corner.

This latest news muddles the picture.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions on Jon Witman & CTE, But….

Let’s be clear on a few critical points:

  • This site has zero information about Jon Witman’s medical condition
  • Substance abuse alone can lead to the same, self-destructive behavior that Witman exhibited
  • Millions of people who’ve never had head trauma issues struggle with substance abuse

Fortunately, it is clear that Witman and his family are still actively seeking help. But it is hard not to read about this and wonder if Jon Witman isn’t doomed to be another victim of CTE. CTE is of course chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and CTE is caused by the accumulation of tau proteins in the brain due to repeated hits to the head.

CTE claimed the lives of former Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Webster and Justin Strzelczyk, as documented in the feature film Concussion, as well as Terry Long and Adrian Robinson.

The only objective indication that head trauma might be an issue is that Jon Witman has been getting treatment at Michigan’s Eisenhower Center whose “After Impact” program targets former soldiers, athletes, and first responders suffering from, among other things, post- concussion syndrome.

Possibility of Jon Witman Having CTE = “Citadel Moment”?

The possibility that Jon Witman might be falling victim to head trauma hits home especially hard for me. I really don’t have many memories of Mike Webster playing, other than perhaps watching the tail end of the Steelers 1988 final preseason game against the Saints, and answering “Mike Webster” to my older brother’s “Who in the hell is that old man?” inquiry.

Terry Long was little more than a name I’d occasionally see in the Monday morning papers while following the Steelers from Maryland in the late 80’s. I do remember Justin Strzelczyk well, rooting for him as he moved through all four positions of the offensive line whenever he was needed.

Reading about Jon Witman’s latest troubles called to mind a scene for Pat Conroy’s autobiographical My Losing Season. Conroy he recounts how, cadets at the Citadel during the 60’s cheered at breakfast whenever it was announced that an alumni had been killed in Vietnam, because more Citadel graduates were giving their lives for their country than West Point graduates.

  • But as Conroy chilling reminds his readers, one morning in the mess hall the cheering stopped, because someone the cadets had studied with had died.

That’s why Jon Witman’s troubles are different for me, because I remember when he was drafted. I remember a friend of mine telling me how good of a player he was going to be, I remember him flashing in preseason, and remember rooting for this 3rd round draft pick in his rookie season that earned him Joe Greene Great Performance Award honors.

Clearly, I never thought Jon Witman’s career would equal that of Franco Harris or Dick Hoak, two other Penn State running backs who played for the Steelers.

  • But during his rookie year, I thought he might develop in the mold of Merril Hoge.
Jon Witman, steelers running back jon witman, Jerome Bettis, Steelers vs Jaguars 1990's

Jon Witman blocks for Jerome Bettis. Photo Credit: Statesman Journal

As a rookie Jon Witman got 69 yards on 17 carries for a respectable 4.1 yard average and got 59 yards on 10 carries in the playoffs. But his role as a running back never evolved. He was stuck for the next few years behind Tim Lester who was blocking for Jerome Bettis.

Witman got the starting job full time during the God-awful 1999 campaign, and was off to a strong start in 2000 before an injury cost him the season in week six. That injury led to Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala shot as a starting fullback. But Fu also got injured, opening the door for a little-known practice squander named Dan Kreider.

Jon Witman reclaimed the starting role in 2001, only missing the season finale in week 16 and starting both of the Steelers playoff games. Sadly, the Steelers first AFC Championship loss to the Patriots was Jon Witman’s last game, and sight of him staring down in despair at game’s end is one of the enduring images of the game for me.

  • Currently, there is no way to diagnose CTE in someone who is alive.

So let’s hope he wins his battle with substance abuse and pulls his life together. Let’s hope he doesn’t have and never gets CTE. And let’s pray that if there ever is a CTE diagnosis for Jon Witman remains a long, long way off in the future.

But should that diagnosis ever come, it will be yet another painful reminder of the brutal toll that the game we love exacts on players we cheers so heartily for.

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A Lifelong Steelers Fan Watches Concussion

Concussion: The story of Dr. Bennett Omalu. The tragedy of Mike Webster. The discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or “CTE.” The genesis of crisis that threatens the existence of the sport we love.

When someone pens the definitive history of the NFL and its CTE-fueled head trauma crisis, Pittsburgh will occupy ground zero. Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster will play the role of patient zero. Dr. Bennet Omalu will act as the canary that sounded an alarm from deep inside the diamond mine.

For a lifelong Steelers fan watching Concussion was going to be difficult. Not because of what I might learn, but because of what I already knew:

  • The hits that Mike Webster took in football that caused the CTE that took his life are in no way an aberration.

Difficulties aside, Concussion tells a story that any conscientious football fan must hear. Steelers fans know it all too well. Mike Webster died at age 49, penniless and robbed of his wits thanks to the tau proteins that accumulated in his brain. CTE took Justin Strzelczyk two years later, at age 36 in a fiery wreck. Yet another year later, Terry Long ended his own life by drinking antifreeze while suffering from CTE. Less than one year ago, Adrian Robinson was posthumously diagnosed with CTE after committing suicide the age of 25.

Concussion recounts the story of a young Nigerian doctor, who saw 2 + 2 not equaling four and insisted, at his own risk, on doing something about it.

Mike Webster, Steelers vs Buccaneers, Concussion

Mike Webster blocking against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Photo Credit: Mike Fabus, AP via Al Jazeera

A Steelers Fan Watches Concussion

From an artistic stand point, Concussion represents a work of excellence. Its imagery and acting in many ways capture the essence of Pittsburgh. Will Smith provides an Oscar-worthy performance. David Morse became Mike Webster. While there’s an undeniable “David and Goliath” air to Concussion, the producers do tell a balanced story.

  • They pull no punches when it comes to depicting the horrors of CTE and the resistance the NFL marshaled when Dr. Omalu refused to keep quiet.

Yet, Concussion also conveys to the viewer the power and pull of football. Interspersed with live game footage showing Mike Webster taking hits to the head throwing blocks for Franco Harris or Rocky Bleier shots of Terry Bradshaw rocketing off bombs to John Stallworth and Lynn Swann epitomizing just how graceful a sport defined by brute force can be.

  • The director takes some artistic liberties – depicting a meeting between Strzelczyk and Webster that almost certainly never happened.

Another apocryphal meeting between Dave Duerson and Andre Waters one between serves the same purpose: To clarify football stands at the very crux of the tragic deaths suffered by these players.

In Concussion, the NFL establishment plays the part of the antagonist. Yet Steelers Nation will likely see the portrayal of their Pittsburgh representatives, in shades of grey and rightly so.

Concussion casts Dr. Joseph Marron the same Steelers doctor who once earned the wrath of this site, as one of the ultimate NFL skeptics and someone vehemently hostile to Dr. Omalu. But according to Julian Bailes, the movie casts Marron in an unfair an inaccurate light.

  • But one thing Dr. Marron’s character claims in the movie is undoubtedly accurate:

Football forms a fundamental part of the fabric of Pittsburgh’s identity and the Rooney family has been pillars of the community. In an earlier scene, Danny Sullivan, a fellow doctor who plays Bennett Omalu’s antagonist in the coroner’s office pleads with Omalu not to press forward with a deeper investigation of Webster arguing that it was players like Webster who gave the city hope when J&L and the rest of the steel industry collapsing.

WDVE’s Scott Paulsen spoke to that reality in his seminal essay “Steeler Nation” that provides a touchstone for both the city, the products of the Pittsburgh diaspora and the Steelers nationwide legion of fans. Before the 70’s, Pittsburgh was known for its steel. Since then it’s known more for the Steelers.

Mike Webster, Don Shula Steelers vs Dolphins 1988, Mike Webster last game Steelers

Mike Webster talks to Don Shula before his final game with Steelers. Photo Credit: Gene J. Puskar, AP via Pro Football Talk.

  • No one can dispute that.

But based on what we now know, Webster’s may have suffered from the first diagnosed case of CTE, but he certainly was not the first to suffer from that affliction. As former ABC Radio journalist Mike Silverstein observed in a related story on Going Deep with the Steelers, that as long as 20 years ago “…there were stories of ‘punch drunk’ ex-football players living in abject poverty, without medical care or insurance.”

Still, several times during Concussion Mike Webster repeats, “If we finish the game, we win.” The movie’s none too subtle message is that perhaps the key to winning at football is not to play at all….

  • And it’s getting more difficult to dispute that.

Fear not loyal readers, Concussion does not represent a “Come to Jesus” moment for this site on CTE any more than Adrian Robinson’s CTE diagnosis.

Perhaps new helmet technology can dissipate impact to prevent the brain from sloshing against the cranium. Pittsburgh Post Gazette writer Ed Bouchette has commented that he’s seen hundreds of former football players grow into their golden years with sharp minds but with painfully broken bodies. Maybe some study will pinpoint the independent variable that correlates to the excellent mental health of those players. Perhaps an enzyme will be discovered that neutralizes the tau protein.

  • Yeah, that’s the emotional side of my brain talking more than the intellectual side, for sure.

Still, on January 29th 1974 – the famous 1974 NFL Draft where the Pittsburgh Steelers took a chance on an undersized center from Wisconsin named Mike Webster, the idea that someone with prosthetic legs could run marathons pure science fiction. So was the idea that you could communicate globally with a hand-held communicator. Now, both are realities.

Conclusion on Concussion, the Steelers and CTE

Early in the movie my wife asked me why so many ex-Steelers had CTE. I told her, “It was really just a conscience.” Later, I asked myself, “Was it because Chuck Noll was such hard driving coach?” After all, the Steelers were one of the last teams to stop live tackling in practice and Webster, Long, and Strzelczyk all played for The Emperor.

  • If Concussion makes one thing clear, it is that neither of those explanations are valid.

CTE was not discovered in Pittsburgh because football forms fundamental part of the city’s fabric. CTE was discovered in Pittsburgh because fate intervened allowing Webster, Strzelczyk and Long to find their end in a place where Dr. Omalu was practicing medicine and because Dr. Omalu refused to accept the simple answer and insisted on searching for the truth, even if it meant opposing some very powerful interests.

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The Adrian Robinson CTE Diagnosis Raises Deeply Disturbing Questions

The suicide of former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Adrian Robinson caused a lot of commotion last May. And so it should. Robinson was 25 and seemingly had just renewed his lease on a pro football career, having signed a contract to play for the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Yet, he took his own life.

As family and friends struggled asking “Why?” Ivey DeJesus of Penn-Live asked the normal battery of questions:

He seemed to have so much: a career, friends, a loving family, a girlfriend and a baby daughter. What led him to the desperation? Was it the pursuit of perfection? Was it disappointment that his NFL career might be ending? Had his brain been ravaged by years of playing football – years of hits to the head? [Emphasis added]

The normal battery of questions, save for the last one, which today is all the more ominous, as tests on Adrian’s Robinson’s brain revealed the presence of an abnormal protein known as tau. The tau protein is similar to the proteins that build up in people who suffer from Alzheimer’s, although it builds up in different places in the brain. In other words Adrian Robinson was suffering from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy.)

Adrian Robinson, Adrian Robinson CTE diagnosis

Adrian Robinson’s CTE diagnosis is troubling. Photo Credit: FOX Sports

Why the Adrian Robinson CTE Diagnosis Should Deeply Disturb You

The Adrian Robinson CTE diagnosis is deeply disturbing on many, many levels.

CTE is the same brain disorder which afflicted former Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Webster, Terry Long and Justin Strzelczyk. Mike Webster died after suffering for years from the disease, and the tales of his struggles in Gary Pomerantz’s Their Life’s Work are simply harrowing. Terry Long committed suicide. Justin Strzelczyk died in a fiery crash after a lengthy highway chase.

By all accounts, “Crazed” does not even begin to describe Justin Strzelczyk’s behavior before he died led police on a 40 mile chase.

  • Why is the Adrian Robinson CTE diagnosis so troubling? Let me count the ways.

Mike Webster’s death, and Dr. Bennet Omalu post-mortem investigation on his brain, is credited for sounding the alarm bell on the dangers and risks that head trauma poses to football players.

But if Webster provided the medical community with a landmark case, his story was also somewhat exceptional. Webster played center for 17 years, and was estimated to have suffered tens of thousands of hits to the head.

For a time, Terry Long’s case appeared to be a potential exception because he was a known steroid user, although research has since discounted a connection between steroids and CTE. While Justin Strzelczyk had no known steroid use, Strzelczyk had banged heads for 9 years as an offensive lineman.

While no one would suggest that there was anything “comforting” about the cases of Webster, Long, or Strzelczyk all three men were lineman who played in an age when playing with a concussion was almost a mark of pride. Their cases, along with other high profile cases such that of Dave Duerson or Andre Waters came from players who played the game for a long time.

  • That at least suggested that awareness of the problem, along with the proper precautions, could mitigate the dangers of CTE.

The Adrian Robinson CTE diagnosis goes a long way to dispelling that illusion.

Adrian Robinson’s CTE Diagnosis Is a Potential Game Changer

Adrian Robinson was only 25, and had appeared in only 22 professional football games, unlike the hundreds of games played by Webster, Duerson, Waters, Long or Strzelczyk. If you love football AND you’re concerned about protecting players from head trauma then Adrian Robinson’s CTE diagnosis MUST to make you uncomfortable.

The presence of tau in Robinson’s brain presents several inconvenient truths for football fans:

  • Robinson, like former Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, had never been diagnosed with a concussion
  • Ergo, protecting against concussions is at the very least insufficient
  • With only 22 NFL games logged, the Adrian Robinson CTE diagnosis certainly suggests that CTE begins in college, if not before

Robinson’s CTE-influenced suicide also suggests that any number of active NFL players could be suffering from CTE at this very minute. Last year when the NFL was reeling from the Ray Rice scandal, former Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested for domestic violence.

At the time, former Steelers linebacker Larry Foote was a teammate of Dwyer’s at Pittsburgh West aka the Arizona Cardinals and expressed shock at Dwyer’s arrest, indicating that he and his wife hat traveled with the Dwyers to an off season Christian Conference.

No one on this site will excuse Dwyer or anyone for domestic violence, but he if did experience a sudden change in character then it raises a legitimate question:

  • Could Jonathan Dwyer be suffering from CTE?

We don’t know. But the Adrian Robinson CTE diagnosis suggests that it remains a distinct possibility.

Adrian Robinson CTE Diagnosis Forces Another Gut Check

Raise your hand… if you’ve been concerned about CTE and head trauma but honestly wished the issue would “Just Go away.”

Raise your hand… if you’ve looked at players like Mike Ditka, Franco Harris and Lynn Swann, to name a few, who’ve made it into their 60’s or beyond without exhibiting any outward signs of CTE and thought, “See, those guys show the problem can’t be that bad….”

Raise your hand… if you’ve read stories about CTE and thought, “This is serious shit, but honestly, I know plenty of people who played in high school or college and are just fine as adults.”

Raise your hand… if you’ve seen the NFL rollout concussion protocols and other measures to protect the head and thought, “Good, that’s going to help a lot.”

My hand is raised to each of those questions and, if you’ve read this far, I suspect yours is too. And if you’ve gotten this point, I suspect that you’ll join me in celebrating any Steelers success vs. the Arizona Cardinals this afternoon, or whomever they’re playing next if Google should bring you to this article.

Fair enough.

For as deeply disturbed I am at the Webster, Strzelczyk and Juinor Seau stories and the stories of others who’ve suffered from CTE, I haven’t reached my “Come to Jesus moment” yet that forces me to turn away from the sport I love.

  • But let’s repeat something said here before: CTE is dangerous enough not just to end the NFL but the entire sport of football itself.

And the Adrian Robinson suicide and subsequent CTE diagnosis suggest that roots of CTE and the forces that generate the tau protein that causes it drive far deeper and are woven far more fundamentally into the fabric of football than we’d like to believe or wish to admit.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Dr. Joseph Maroon Should be Ashamed of Himself

There’s no way to sugar coat this. Pittsburgh Steelers Dr. Joseph Maroon should be ashamed of himself.

IN the wake of Chris Borland’s sudden retirement Dr. Maroon was on ESPN recently discussing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) the mental degenerative condition that has left dozens (if not scores or hundreds) of former football players suffering from Alzheimer’s  like symptoms in their 50’s or even in their 40’s.

Make no mistake about it:  CTE is a disease which could spell the demise of the NFL – and football itself in less than a generation. When asked about CTE this is what Dr. Maroon had to say:

It’s a rare phenomena. We have no idea the incidence. There are … more injuries to kids falling off bikes, scooters, falling in playgrounds than there are in youth football.

Really? As MMQB’s Greg Bedard pointed out, CTE was found in 76 out of 79 brains of former NFL players evaluated by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs brain bank. Of the 128 brains tested of people who’d played football at some level even high school, 101 tested positive for CTE.

If those hard statistics aren’t enough (to be honest, Maroon did cite his own quantitative research on concussions while on ESPN), then Maroon need only look to the cases of Terry Long, Mike Webster and Justin Strzelczyk.

In all fairness to Maroon, we don’t know how random the sample of brains was in the Department of Veterans Affairs study. Studying the brain of a diseased person requires the consent of their family and, one would figure that families who had someone suffer from dementia like symptoms would be more inclined to donate a brain.

And Marron is right when he says there are only a few hundred cases of CTE vs. 30 or 40 millions of kids who play football.

  • But Maroon is being disingenuous in attempting to write off CTE as a “rare phenomena.”

Dr. Maroon is a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh and has been a member of the Steelers medical staff dating back to at least the 1980’s. He’s a well-respected practicing physician.


In fact, in 1990 or 1991 Dr. Maroon refused to clear Bubby Brister to play after Brister had suffered a concussion. Chuck Noll balked and challenged Dr. Maroon to provide quantifiable proof to back his diagnosis. Noll’s challenge prompted Dr. Maroon to develop the NFL’s cognitive tests to measure and document the impact of concussions.

  • Dr. Maroon is a legitimate pioneer in the field of concussion research as it relates to football.

But those credentials don’t somehow buy him a “Get Out of Jail” free card when it comes to commentary on CTE

If the NFL and the sport of football are going to survive the treat posed to it by CTE and head trauma, they’re not going to do it by making a tobacco-company like attempting to pretend the problem does not exist.

In a word, Dr. Maroon should know better.

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James Harrison Should Just Punch the Quarterback

Ed Bouchette stole my thunder on PG Plus Wednesday.

With all that is going on, I had mind to let the La Toalla Terrible run wild with another post about how the NFL was encouraging Harrison to sucker punch quarterbacks.

But La Toalla Terrible already ranted about how the NFL had legalized holding of James Harrison and about how the NFL would only announce when the league was not fining Harrison. But La Toalla plays a comic relief role, and the James Harrison situation has ceased to be funny…..

No Conspiracy Theories Here But…

The NFL does not “have it in” for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two years ago, the league bent over backwards to ensure that the Rooneys retained ownership of the Steelers. Had the league harbored any ill will, or even neutral will, toward the Steelers, they would have acted differently.
But that certainly does not make their actions toward James Harrison logical or just.

The Power of the Free Market

Free market principles dictate that the value of something is defined by the amount that someone is willing to pay.

Normally we think of this in terms of goods and services, but the same principle applies to fines. I can remember the “One Will Cost You a $100” signs when they first banned smoking in the Boston Subways.

With this mini economics lesson in mind, let’s consider the how severly the NFL values deviant. Let’s begin by conceding that infractions will occur, and that the more serious the infraction, the higher the cost.

In other words, pass interference draws an automatic first down and movement of the ball to the spot of the foul, while the cost of a false start is far lower by comparison.

Now watch for yourself:

Let’s dissect Richard Seymour’s transgression. This Oakland Raider:

  • Punched a player, something he is never supposed to do
  • And did it outside the normal course of play
  • Did so deliberately

His actions were illegal, intentional, and totally outside of a play. Taking all of that into consideration, the league fined him $25,000

Now, watch the latest play by James Harrison that drew a fine (you’ll get to see all of his fineable hits, the last one is at the end):

In contrast to Seymour, James Harrison’s sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick (and arguably the others):

  • Occurred as he was executing the responsibilities of his position
  • Occurred during the normal course of play
  • Was unintentional and within the rules

NFL rules prohibit helmet to helmet contact, and prohibit a defender from leading with the crown of his helmet.

While James Harrison’s helmet (the facemask perhaps) might have make contact – with Fitzpatrick’s chest, it is impossible to argue that he led with the helmet.

Taking all of this into consideration, the NFL fined James Harrison… $25,000.

NFL in “Transition” to… What?

Terry Long, Justin Strzelczyk, and Hall of Famer Mike Webster serve as reminders to Steelers Nation that the importance of protecting players for head trauma is paramount.

The NFL’s new “get tough” policy on hits that involve helmets goes beyond protecting players.

  • In effect, if not because of intent, it is an attempt to neuter defenders.

There is no other way to explain the fact that flagrantly violating the rules in an attempt to hurt someone carries the same price an unintentional hit that perhaps violates the letter of the law.

The Steelers as an organization might not be unfairly targeted in this endeavor, but James Harrison as an individual certainly is.

So the next time James Harrison gets blatantly held with no flag thrown, or he gets penalized for brushing up against a quarterback a second too soon, he might as well haul off and upper cut the quarterback.

It will not cost him any more than he is already paying for simply doing his job.

Oh yes, punching the quarterback would also get James Harrison thrown out of the game…

…But perhaps that’s just what the NFL wants to see happen.

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Watch Tower: Two Sides to the Terry Long Story

To those of you who have not yet checked out the PG Plus, the Post-Gazette’s paid subscription section, it is well worth the four bucks a month (even if you get paid in Argentine pesos).

Although the season is two months over, and the Steelers have over six months to go before their next regular season game, Ed Bouchette is keeping his daily blog filled with lots of interesting news.

The Full Story Behind Tim Lewis’ Firing

What is particularly enticing is the “behind the scenes” pieces he is throwing out there. One of the more recent articles dealt with Tim Lewis’ exit when Bill Cowher fired him as defensive coordiantor in 2003.

Fans will recall that the Steelers defense played badly in 2003 — not just the secondary, but the pass rush and the run defense.

Mike Prisuta, for so long Tribune Review’s top Steelers columnist, told his readers to expect that Lewis would be the first to get the axe. When the season ended, Cowher did can some coaches, but Lewis was not among them. A few days later, Lewis was gone too. At the time Cowher explained that his decision to fire Lewis resulted from “philosophical differences” that arose in their post season meetings.

While that is basically true, Bouchette adds a whole new dimension to the story. In the interests of paying proper respect to Bouchette and the work he has done, I won’t recount all of the details here. Suffice to say, the way Bouchette paints it now, Lewis created his own self-fulfilling philosophy.

The Terry Long Story

This past week Ed Bouchette delved into the Terry Long story. Bob Smizik recently wrote about the GQ article the featured Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Pittsburgh brain pathologist who took on the NFL over brain trauma.

Omalu, who examined the brains of former Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Webster, Terry Long, and Justin Strzelczyk, all of whom played offensive line for the Steelers, and all of whom died untimely, and in the case of the latter to, violent deaths.

While praising Omalu for being a trail blazer on the issue of the long-term impact of concussions and brain trauma, Bouchette goes into, dare way say, Watch Tower mode, going at pains to share with readers that the Terry Long story has two sides.

Bouchette points out that Long, who tested positive for steroids in 1991 prior to his final year in the NFL, had been a serious steroid abuser. He goes on to say:

Long was an obvious steroids user who grew way beyond proportion and became a starting guard in the NFL. He was one of the more difficult players I ever had to deal with and seemed to fall into the category of steroids rage.

He also points out that the initial autopsy report, which diagnosed Long’s death as coming from brain trauma, was wrong because Long committed suicide by drinking anti-freeze.

Steel Curtain Rising shares Bouchette’s sentiments, that the head trauma issue is a very serious one that the NFL has ignored for too long. We also salute Bouchette for stepping out and insisting that the story be reported accurately.

Speaking of Reporting….

If Bouchette’s posts on PG Plus answer a lot of questions that Steelers fans might have been having, they also raise another one.

Why are we only finding about this now?

In the case of Terry Long that answer is pretty easy. The article in GQ was published in October, and Brochette had other things to do.

At least as far as the brain trauma article is concerned. Steroids is a whole other issue. Bouchette described him as an “obvious steroid user,” and says he saw Long slip into ‘roid rage.

If that is the case, why didn’t the Post-Gazette report on it then?

And what about Tim Lewis?

That was a fascinating story that gave fans a “fly on the wall” view of how Bill Cowher ran the Steelers. Bouchette might not have had all of the facts in front of him when Lewis got the boot, but must surmise that he came about them a long time ago.

If that is the case, why is he only sharing them with his readers now? Steel Curtain Rising intends to ask at his next on-line chat.

Interested in seeing critiques of Steelers press corps? Then click here to read Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

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