I didn’t see this one coming…
And, no, I’m not talking about the Patriots cutting Tim Tebow. Can anybody believe we lost a playoff game to that guy?
The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the first teams to cut down to 75 men. When it came time to set their final 53 man roster, though, they were one of the last. As I waited and waited on Saturday, I immediately grew suspicious. The longer it takes, the more likely it is the team is debating cutting somebody nobody thought would be cut.
Jonathan Dwyer, come on down. Don’t forget to bring your playbook with you.
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Of course he does. He’s a football player in Pittsburgh. Was there ever any doubt?
In the least shocking development of the off-season, Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu got the legal equivalent of being sent to bed without supper – which, for him, would probably have been a harsher punishment than the one he actually received – after pleading guilty to four charges stemming from the drunken rampage he went on back in October. Ta’amu was originally charged with 15 separate offenses ranging from misdemeanors like resisting arrest and driving drunk to felonies such as fleeing the police and aggravated assault while driving. Miraculously, his lawyer plead all that down to four counts to which Ta’amu was sentenced to 18 months probation and four days in the Drunk Tank (basically a halfway house where DUI offenders are monitored).
Ever hear of the Chewbacca Defense? Well, it’s got nothing on the I’m a Steeler Defense.
Think I’m lying? Here is Ta’amu’s explanation for his behavior as told to the judge: “I was a rookie, I was scared. I was a Steeler. I was drunk driving.”
As soon as the yinzer judge heard the word “Steeler,” his Pavlovian response to cheer blindly while waving a Terrible Towel couldn’t be stopped. The fact he laughably claimed Ta’amu was being treated “the same as any other first time offender” is besides the point. I’m sure if you or I got hammered down in the South Side, sideswiped several parked cars before driving the wrong way down a one way street, then ran away from the po-po until several of them managed to wrestle us to the ground, we’d totally get a year and half probation.
But, hey, the Steelers need a nose tackle so we can’t be locking up Ta’amu now can we? Casey Hampton remains an unsigned free agent and it’s looking more and more like his NFL career is over. Which leaves Steve McClendon and Ta’amu as the only options at NT unless they find somebody in the draft. And it’s not like 6’4 350 pound humans grow on trees.
Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go…
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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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Catching up on things I missed during my cough syrup-induced hysteria…
The Pittsburgh Steelers have suspended rookie NT Alameda Ta’amu for a whopping two whole weeks. TWO WEEKS! All he did was go on a drunken rampage that ended with an arrest on 15 separate counts, five of which are considered felonies. This reminds me of when
I was my best friend was a kid and would pitch a fit over his mom not buying him the latest He-Man figure and would have to sit in a “time-out” for twenty minutes.
I guess what I’m saying is, Ta’amu needs an ass-whooping.
In the meantime, October 23rd will be interesting. Ta’amu is scheduled for his first preliminary hearing on that date. When Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk posted the Ta’amu story, he threw in a shot about how Steelers in Pittsburgh can get away with anything. Some Steeler fans on twitter didn’t like that and saw it as more evidence of Mike’s anti-Steeler bias.
Well, Florio definitely hates the Steelers but he’s right about the town being a bunch of fanboys. Of course, the same can be said about a lot of other NFL cities. And don’t get me started on what colleges get away with. We’re a culture that worships their athletes. Ancient Romans sculpted tributes to their Gods, we make statues of Mario Lemieux.
If Ta’amu was just any other fat slob who got blasted, then played bumper cars all over the South Side before being gang tackled by an army of police officers, he’d be bending over in the shower for a wayward Hell’s Angel as we speak. But he’s a Steeler in a town that loves the Steelers so I suspect the officers (Steeler fans, natch) will magically forget certain aspects of his arrest and the whole debacle will be plead down to a simple DUI. Like he had a few too many at Station Square and got pulled over going through a drive in at McDonald’s instead of nearly causing mass carnage.
I hope I’m wrong. But if being a sports fan in this town for 30 odd years has taught me anything, it’s always side with the athlete, no matter what he’s done. Unless of course your name is Ben Roethlisberger.
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Back in 2009, the Pittsburgh Steelers hit a rough patch. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. And how did they respond? In a word, badly.
Mike Tomlin‘s weekly press conference became an absolute sham. Okay, it’s always been a sham but every week he’d make fiery pronouncements and then do absolutely nothing to follow up on them. His infamous promise to “Unleash Hell!” came that year and the team responded by unleashing a loss to a Raiders team that would win only 4 games. They followed that debacle by getting losing to an even more pathetic Cleveland team the following week.
While Tomlin blathered his empty rhetoric, the team played with absolutely no passion whatsoever. The defense blew fourth quarter leads five times, with four of them ending in losses. When the fans and local media began calling them on their poor play, they responded indignantly. Ryan Clark went on a tirade about how fans should support their team unconditionally.
Here we are three years later. And history looks to be repeating itself.
The Steelers haven’t stopped anybody in the fourth quarter all season. Tomlin continues to waste everybody’s time at his press conferences. And the players are turning surly. After losing to a pitiful Tennessee Titans team last Thursday, Rashard Mendenhall scolded fans on twitter for being critical. I wasn’t aware the Koran spoke about the qualities of a true fan.
Maybe he was cranky from all that fasting during Ramadan.
In any case, he should shut his Bin Laden-loving ass up. Fans pay money to go to games. They pay money to buy the team’s merchandise. They invest their time and emotion in the game. They have a right to be critical when the team doesn’t play up to their expectations.
Besides, a fan is somebody who follows a team passionately. Hence the word being derived from the word “fanatic.” Nowhere in the description does it say you’re supposed to root for the team regardless of how they’re doing. They have a name for that, it’s called “cheerleading.”
Speaking of cheerleaders, urban legend has it the Steelers don’t have hot Polish babes in teeny tiny skirts shaking their pom-poms on the sidelines because the fans are passionate enough. That’s only half true. The other half is they don’t need cheerleaders on the sidelines because they already have them up in the press box.
The local media are so far in the Steelers’ pockets, I bet every reporter for the two major papers can tell you whether Art Rooney II dresses to the left or the right. That said, when local reporters shockingly decide to speak the truth, the team and their players don’t know how to react. And it usually ends up with one of the players reverting back to their asshole jock persona.
Ike Taylor, who has played like absolute shit this season, has a weekly radio show. Okay, it’s not really radio, it’s streamed over the internet by the Tribune-Review. Full disclosure: a couple years ago when I wrote for NPC, TribLive invited me on to talk Stillers a couple times. Since then, they’ve cut costs and gone to a line-up of marginable “personalities.” One of which is Face Me Ike.
Ike went on a tirade about reporters “attacking” him which you can listen to by clicking here. Attacks are when the press goes after somebody for no reason at all. They’re CRITICIZING Ike because his play deserves criticism. Or was that game winning TD he gave up against the Titans or the 203 yards he surrendered to Demaryius Thomas in the season opener just bad luck?
People have already started drawing parallels between 2012 and 2009. In 2009, we missed the playoffs because we lost to a bunch of teams we had no business losing to. In 2012, we’ve already lost two games (Tennessee and Oakland) that we should have won. The lies continue spewing forth from the corrupt Tomlin regime. And now the players are turning on the fans and press.
It’s deja vu all over again.
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Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse for the Pittsburgh Steelers…
The Steelers had a nice ten day break after losing to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. Most players used that time to rest injuries and gear up for next Sunday night’s pivotal game against the Bengals. Rookie NT Alameda Ta’amu decided to use his down time to play Grand Theft Auto. Except in real life.
This story is incredible even by dipshit athlete standards. Ta’amu faces 15 felony and misdemeanor charges after going on what can charitably be described as a drunken rampage late Saturday night. I like to think of myself as a creative guy but I couldn’t begin to come up with some of this stuff. You can read the Yahoo story by clicking here or go to a detailed account from the Post-Gazette here.
A thumbnail sketch of Ta’amu’s night sounds like the plot of Hangover 3. Ta’amu was driving drunk when police officers ordered him to pull over. Instead of complying, he fled by swerving into the oncoming lane, almost running over three police officers in the process. He then crashed into a parked car with a woman inside. What was she doing in a parked car at three in the morning? I don’t know but sounds like my kind of girl.
Wait, it gets better.
Ta’amu, whose SUV must be built like a tank, carried on, hitting several more cars before coming to a stop. Did he surrender? Hell no, he continued fleeing on foot, first stopping to remove his shirt because when you’re running from the cops, you certainly don’t want fabric providing any wind resistance. Anyway, if you saw Ta’amu’s Combine workout, it probably comes as no surprise that the cops quickly caught up with him. Being 6’3 and a taco under 350 pounds, it took several officers and two pairs of handcuffs to eventually subdue him.
“We are disappointed to hear about the situation regarding Alameda Ta’amu. We will gather more facts before providing any further comment.” said see-no-evil/hear-no-evil Steelers GM Kevin Colbert in a press release.
Ta’amu was a fourth round pick in this year’s draft. Most Steeler fans, myself included, were excited by the choice, viewing Ta’amu as Casey Hampton‘s eventual heir apparent at nose tackle. Ta’amu hasn’t played this season and after the Ginger Dictator gets a whiff of what happened, I don’t like his chances of playing at all this year. That is if the Steelers even keep this idiot around.
Before Ta’amu decided to be the latest Steeler to sully the reputation of a once proud franchise, the biggest news over the weekend was the team’s decision to cut ties with second year tight end Weslye Saunders. Saunders was suspended the first month of the season after testing positive for PEDs. It was expected he’d rejoin the team after serving his time since the Steelers were reportedly very high on him. His playing time steadily increased last season to the point many were viewing him as the Aaron Hernandez to Heath Miller’s Rob Gronkowski.
Saunders was probably a 2nd or 3rd round pick coming out of South Carolina until he was suspended his senior year for “violating team rules.” He ended up going undrafted and the Steelers snapped him up. Saunders displayed a world of potential, what with being a 6’5 270 pound tight end with excellent hands in a league that’s suddenly decided big pass catching tight ends are all the rage. Honestly, I thought he could possibly be the second coming of Eric Green.
Turns out I was right in all the wrong ways. Just like Green’s career was derailed by his being a self-destructive goof, it looks like Saunders suffers from the same mental deficiency. Mike Tomlin might say the team is high on 2012 draft pick David Paulson but neither he nor Todd Haley gofer Leonard Pope have anywhere near Saunders’ potential. The only reason the Steelers would’ve cut Saunders is that they looked at his history at SC and getting popped one year into his career and figured he was too much of a character risk going forward.
Failing a PED test and nearly committing multiple acts of vehicular homicide are two totally different things, however. Not to mention Saunders showed something in his first year here, Ta’amu has shown exactly bupkiss. Okay, 350 pound humans who play NT don’t grow on trees so I’m sure the Steelers will think long and hard about cutting Ta’amu but if Saunders was considered a bad apple, Ta’amu is a candy apple with a razor blade inside. Colbert can gather all the fact he wants, I don’t see how you justify turning the South Side into GTA: Steel City.
I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it for newer readers. I love the Steelers. I’m proud to be a Steeler fan. I wouldn’t be doing a blog if I didn’t bleed Black and Gold. While I love my team, I don’t particularly like a lot their players. Don’t get me wrong, there are many good guys on the team, many who do charity work and are good members of the community but there are quite a few who are entitled assholes or cocky idiots.
And every day, it seems more and more like the good guys are being outnumbered by the bad ones. Instead of Art Rooney II worrying about bringing back Stiller Football by running 45 times per game, perhaps he should worry about something else. Namely, bringing back the Steeler Way when it comes to off the field behavior. Because I’m getting sick of seeing the Steelers turn into the Bengals.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers began mandatory mini-camp last week. Which is not to be confused with voluntary off-season team activities (OTAs) or strongly suggested rookie orientation and underwear inspection. Does anybody else remember the good old days when we had the Pro Bowl the week after the Super Bowl and that was the last we saw of the NFL until teams reported to training camp in August? Not that I blame teams for keeping their players under thumbs all year round. Less chance of them getting arrested or knocking up another half dozen women of loose morals. Call it crime and population control, NFL-style.
I generally don’t cover the goings-on at these get half-assed scrimmages because some rookie breaking loose for a 55 yard touchdown while being covered by some undrafted free agent playing in a t-shirt and shorts doesn’t indicate anything of particular relevance to the upcoming season. However, there was one bit of news which does. General Manager Kevin Colbert has been making the media rounds to discuss some of what we’ve been seeing at mini-camp. Or, in the case of disgruntled wide receiver Mike Wallace, what we’re not seeing, which is him showing up like everybody else instead of being a selfish prick.
Colbert mentioned that injured nose tackle Casey Hampton and injured running back Rashard Mendenhall are progressing slowly from major injuries late in the season and he expects both to begin the 2012 season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. This is significant for a couple of reasons. Not the least of which are NFL rules that mandate any player on the PUP list must sit out the first six games of the regular season. Six games, not weeks, which means neither man will be eligible to return until the Steelers face RGIII and the new look Redskins in week 8.
The good news is that the Steelers are well stocked at both NT and RB while they await their eventual return. To his credit, Big Snack has been working diligently with rookie Alameda Ta’amu, the man many expect will be his heir apparent. I don’t see a rookie starting for the Steelers D, even if the nose tackle’s primary job is to be fat and clog up the middle, so look to Steve McClendon as the odds on favorite to start in Hamp’s place. Which isn’t to say they won’t work Ta’amu into the mix and, if he shows the ability many of us feel he has, steadily increase his playing time as time goes on.
The running back position is even deeper while the bar set by the man they’re trying to replace is even lower. In fact, many wondered why the Steelers didn’t go to more of a shared backfield last season when Mendy repeatedly failed to get the job done. Running game by committee seems to becoming the rule rather than the exception in today’s NFL so let’s hope new offensive coordinator Todd Haley does a better a job spreading the wealth. Isaac Redman will be the team’s primary back but his power running style, while pleasing to fans of Stiller Football, doesn’t offer much big play potential. Rookie Chris Rainey and Baron Batch, with their pass catching skills and big play ability, will be looked at as possible third down backs. And then there are John Clay and Jon Dwyer, who offer depth along with versatility.
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Ah, college graduation. That rite of passage when one chapter of your life closes and another begins. Of course, I graduated in my early twenties with about six figures worth of debt to my name. Something tells me Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t have to worry about repaying his student loans. And while he graduated this weekend some nine years after leaving Miami University (Ohio) for the NFL, it’s nice to see the big lug finally earn his degree. He even trotted out the sham wife (who, to be fair, has ditched the butch haircut and is looking much better these days. She still dresses like my grandma, though.) to
keep him away from post-graduation keggers share in his special day.
While Big Ben was off accepting his bachelor’s degree in education (EDUCATION? No wonder US academic standards continue to plummet), the Steeler were busy getting acquainted with their 2012 draft class. The new CBA makes contract negotiations fairly standard in terms of length and base salary, the only quibbling point left is over bonus money. NT Alameda Ta’amu was the first draft pick to sign, with good reason as the Steelers lavished their nose tackle-of-the-future with a generous deal worth about $2.5 million. To put that in perspective, fourth round pick Ta’amu received roughly the same deal second rounder LaMarr Woodley got back in 2007. RB Chris Rainey was the second player to sign although his contract details haven’t been announced.
Regardless of contract, all our draft picks, undrafted rookies, and non-roster invitees were in town this weekend for their first off-season mini-camp. Sadly not among them was Trick Shot Quarterback Alex Tanney, who I mentioned in my recap of undrafted free agents last week. Tanney decided to sign with the Bills when he found out we also invited former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson to camp. Johnson, who holds the honor of being the first overall pick of the 2011 United Football League draft, bounced around between the UFL, NFL, and ArenaBall last year. Johnson is a big guy (6’5 240 pounds) with a big arm who also has pretty good mobility for a guy his size. And he’s African-American, like every other quarterback on our roster not named Ben Roethlisberger. I only felt compelled to point that out because like 10% of the QBs in the league are African-American yet the Steelers are going into camp with four on the roster (not to mention Dennis Dixon is still trying to find work). Mike Tomlin must think he’s Jesse Jackson or something.
Anyway, rookie orientation begins with the assigning of jerseys which is always an interesting proposition. The Steelers don’t retire numbers, another of their strange little quirks like refusing to alter their uniform design or field a squad of big-haired Polish girls waving pom-poms. Technically, they have retired one number, #70, worn by Hall of Fame defensive end Ernie Stautner from 1950-63. It was retired in 1969 which to you Steeler historians out there will pretty well explain why his was the last number to be “officially” taken out of circulation.
Vaunted rookie guard David DeCastro has drawn countless comparisons to former Steelers All-Pro Alan Faneca since the moment his name was called by the Ginger Dictator. DeCastro initially took #61 but after second thought (or perhaps some prodding from the Steelers’ PR staff) switched to Faneca’s #66. Maybe they’re both really big Penguins fans. Fellow rookie lineman Mike Adams took freshly retired Chris Hoke‘s #76. Ta’amu picked one of the more iconic numbers, choosing to wear the #95 most frequently associated with Greg Lloyd. Lloyd’s number was actually worn by Joey Porter early in his career but he got sick of being called “the next Greg Lloyd” so he changed it to #55. It’s pretty safe to say Ta’amu won’t have to worry about those comparisons as even if he blossoms into the anchor at the middle of the Steelers D, there’s not much confusing a mouthy linebacker built like a brick house with a fatass lineman charged with the dirty work up front.
Then we have perhaps one of the more ignorant things the Steelers have done in recent years. Rookie linebacker Sean Spence asked for and received #51. Granted James Farrior may not be a Hall of Famer or even one of the top ten linebackers in Steelers history (although that’s arguable) but he was key contributor to three Super Bowl bound teams not to mention a long-time defensive captain. They couldn’t wait ONE FREAKIN’ YEAR before peddling his number out to some midget who’ll probably be cut in a year or two?? Not to mention for those hoping Farrior might be brought back at a later date, I guess now it’s clear the Steelers have turned that page.
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6’5 320 pounds
What more can I say about this pick? Just look at this dude. How can you not be excited by the NFL version of Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket? The scouting report on DeCastro is filled with superlatives like “extremely polished,” “stout at the point of attack,” and “nasty, aggressive demeanor.” He’ll be expected to start on day one and the question isn’t whether he can handle playing in the NFL but how long it’ll take him to reach his first Pro Bowl (if the Pro Bowl still exists next year). The sky is truly the limit with this pick. Why did he fall to the Steelers at #24? The only answer I’ve heard is he’s a guard, which tend to hold less value than tackles, who have to be a little better athletically since they work in space.. That said, DeCastro is a tremendous athlete by guard standards as evidenced by his superior pull blocking ability. The bottom line the Steelers got a well-rounded, blue-collar blocker who solidifies one of their guard spots for the next decade.Mike Adams Offensive Tackle Ohio State 6’7 325 pounds
Adams was considered one of the top five tackles in the draft who fell to the mid-second round due to character concerns stemming from several incidents while at Ohio State and a failed drug test at the NFL Combine. He grew up a Steeler fan in Farrell, PA, and evidently was very hopeful the Steelers would draft him. Time will tell whether he can straighten his life out or if he’ll be just another low character guy the team failed to control. Sticking to the football side of the equation, Adams has the kind of size and quickness to be a top notch left tackle. He has some injury concerns (season ending foot injury in 2008, season ending knee injury in 2009) but rebounded to be named 1st Team Big Ten in 2010 and 2nd Team last season. Boom or Bust type with all the physical gifts in the world but needs a little polish and a lot of attitude adjustment in order to maximize his immense potential.Sean Spence Inside Linebacker Miami 5’11 230 pounds
Excellent athlete with a non-stop motor. Tackling machine who has no problem covering sideline-to-sideline. Played several different linebacker positions in college but Mike Tomlin has already stated they’re looking at Spence to back-up Lawrence Timmons at ILB with Stevenson Sylvester in the mix to replace James Farrior at the other ILB. The downside with Spence is at 5’11 and 230 pounds, he’s way undersized for the Steelers’ style of defense. Dick LeBeau depends on his inside ‘backers to be stout against the run and drop into coverage. Timmons got pushed around his first couple seasons as an undersized ILB and he was 6’1 240. Spence is going to get run over like an annoying little gnat. What’s more, he ran a disappointing 4.7 second 40 at the combine so not only is Spence half a foot shorter than most TEs, he’s quite a bit slower, too. Perhaps he’ll give the Steelers some nice special teams play during his brief NFL career but it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever see significant playing time as a member of the defense.