And so is Dan Rooney. Less than a month after stepping down as Ambassador to Ireland, the patriarch of the Pittsburgh Steelers has resumed his role as team chairman. Perhaps not coincidentally, the first major incident to occur since his return was met with swift and decisive action. Perhaps the culture of arrogance and assholery which has festered under the reign of his son, Art Rooney II, is finally going to be addressed.
Running back Chris Rainey was arrested yesterday morning after pimp slapping his girlfriend in front of witnesses. Later that very same afternoon, the Steelers announced they cut the promising rookie. I realize no NFL team is going to be made up of 53 choir boys. However, it’s nice to see the Steelers brass paying a little more attention to weeding out the bad apples instead of worrying about firing offensive coordinators.
Rainey f-ing up isn’t exactly shocking. While in college, he was suspended for several games after threatening to kill an ex-girlfriend via text message. Earlier this season, he got into a scuffle at a casino. The only reason the Steelers drafted this headcase was because he lived with the Pouncey family during high school and Maurkice vouched for him. Considering Pouncey is one of the more arrogant and self-absorbed members of the team, it’s not surprising he’s a lousy judge of character.
Some people are crying hypocrisy over the team releasing Rainey after his first offense. Well, I’m sure there was a secret deal between the Steelers and Rainey much like the one they made with Mike Adams on draft day. Adams, you may recall, got popped for drug use at the combine which led to most teams, including the Steelers, taking him off their draft boards. Adams sent a heartfelt letter to the Rooneys apologizing for the mistake and vowing to walk the straight and narrow. After taking him in the second round, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert made it clear that Adams was in a strict one strike and you’re out situation.
Now, it is hard to justify cutting Rainey when the team still has NT Alameda Ta’amu on the roster. Ta’amu went on a drunken rampage through the South Side which resulted in 18 separate charges, several of which are listed as felonies. If you or I did what Ta’amu did, we’d still be sitting in jail or the hospital after the cops went all Rodney King on our ass. Oh the Steelers released the moron after the incident but quietly re-signed him the practice squad a week later then just as quietly re-signed him to the main roster when the season ended.
At the same time, it’s hard to argue Rainey was released because he was less important than Ta’amu. While Ta’amu plays NT, a much harder position to fill than RB, there has been zero evidence that he has any future here. He didn’t play at all last season so penciling him in to replace Casey Hampton is premature at best. Meanwhile, Rainey saw quite a bit of action, returning 39 kickoffs for 1,035 yards while rushing for 102 yards and catching another 60 worth of passes.
What’s more, Rainey was the only running back currently under contract for next season. Issac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall are all free agents. While it was pretty clear that Rainey was way too tiny to be a featured back, he did show promise as a returner and third down threat out of the backfield. Considering the Steelers have had four backs see significant playing time the past couple seasons, it looks like the backfield is in for a pretty big overhaul with at least two new faces added to the mix.
We knew this off-season was going to be one of upheaval. Of course, I didn’t expect it to begin with the elimination of every running back on our roster. Although in this case I have to commend the Steelers for doing the right thing. Let’s hope this zero tolerance policy becomes the norm rather than the exception.
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The Monday after a loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers is always interesting. Local talk radio airwaves are usually filled with a mixture of doom, gloom and Monday morning quarterbacking. The level of vitriol increases exponentially when the Steelers lose a game in miserable a fashion. So in the wake of Sunday’s absolute ass-kicking by the San Diego Chargers, I expected yesterday to be a red letter day for yinzer sports talk.
To my surprise, instead of bemoaning Curtis Brown‘s absolute ineptitude or bitching about the stone hands infecting
Young Money Cash Droppahs, the issue on everybody’s minds seemed to be Mike Tomlin‘s decision not to go for a two point conversion in the 4th quarter.
Here’s the scenario. The Steelers were down 24 with about seven minutes left. With Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the starters still in the game, they scored a garbage time touchdown to make the score 34-16. Tomlin kicked the extra point, which left the deficit at three scores (17 points) instead of going for a 2 point conversion which would’ve cut it to 16 (two TDs + two 2 pts).
When asked why Ben was still in the game despite just missing three games due to life threatening injury, Tomlin responded, “We always look to compete.” But when asked why he didn’t go for 2, he said, “We didn’t want to put our special two point plays on tape.” So which is it? If you’re trying to compete, you go for two and cut the margin to two touchdowns. If you’re in full mop up mode, you kick the XP and put your recovering franchise QB on the bench.
Tomlin’s weekly lie-fest press conference is later today and I wager nobody in the rah rah cheerleader local media presses him on this contradiction. That didn’t stop Steeler fans from calling in droves yesterday to call BS on Tomlin’s nonsense. Leaving aside the obvious lie about the “special two point plays” (they couldn’t call a regular goal line play? I’m sure “genius” Todd Haley has dozens and dozens of those in his wonderful offense), why couldn’t Tomlin just tell the truth?
As I mentioned in yesterday’s recap, there was a minor scrum among Steelers Nation during the game as a #fireTomlin has tag started making the rounds. Later that evening, local sportscaster John Fedko went on Triblive Radio (who once offered me a weekly interview segment but reneged so I won’t link to them) and actually verbalized the notion that Tomlin should be fired. Other Pittsburgh sports personalities have been more muted in their criticism but there is definitely a growing backlash against Tomlin amongst both reporters and fans. And he has nobody to blame but himself.
I’m not a johnny-come-lately to criticizing Tomlin. In fact when I wrote for NicePickCowher many years ago, I was the first person online or anywhere to point out his press conferences were utter jokes. All he does is stand there and spout off a bunch of nonsense he thinks sounds good, very little of which is actually true. I was also the first to float the idea that Tomlin won with “Cowher’s team,” an idea which all of a sudden I hear people picking up on only four years after I first floated it.
Look, I don’t hate Mike Tomlin. I don’t even think he should be fired (yet). But at the same time, I think he’s pulled the wool over a lot of people’s eyes and slowly that facade is beginning to fade. He lies constantly and about everything. He lies about injuries, he lies about line-up changes, he lies about strategy. And his in-game management is absolutely atrocious to the point even Bill Simmons has remarked that he’d never bet on Tomlin in a close game. In just the past month alone, Byron Leftwich was left in a game where he was obviously hurt, the running back situation was botched so badly none of them had any confidence and after Sunday’s loss various Steelers from Ryan Clark to Bret Keisel admitted they felt the team “wasn’t ready to play.”
Weren’t ready to play? How does any team in the middle of a playoff race not come into a very winnable game ready to play? That’s on the head coach. A head coach who inherited a team only one season removed from a Super Bowl championship, by the way. If the team hopes to win another before the window closes, Tomlin needs to start doing a much better job before it’s too late. Or else he risks joining George Seifert and Barry Switzer in head coaching infamy.