Going into the 2012 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers were like every other team in the National Football League in that they had needs at certain positions. They spent countless hours and amazing amounts of money on vetting potential draft picks. This is done to ensure that players drafted are not only excellent players but who are also of a high moral character.
That last part is what professional teams have struggled with for decades now and it isn’t getting any better. In order to find the best and most high-quality talent, sometimes you have to be willing to select guys who have had shady pasts but seem to be on the right path heading into their professional careers.
In that 2012 draft, the Steelers selected three guys who they knew had checkered pasts. In the second round, they selected Mike Adams who wasn’t even on their official invitation list of visits to Pittsburgh. He sought them out saying that any of the problems he had had in the past were behind him.
In the fourth round, they took nose tackle Alameda Ta’Amu who had a drunk driving offense while in college at Washington and followed that up by repeating that and then some in his rookie season in Pittsburgh.
The fifth round selection was Chris Rainey who had once threatened to kill a former girlfriend while attending Florida. A similar scene played out this past winter when Rainey was arrested for assaulting a women after she took his cell phone. Rainey was released by the Steelers within hours.
There was a time when the Steelers Franchise would never have taken individuals with such potential to embarrass them. Those days are gone and a failure to admit that is a failure to see the obvious. Maybe you don’t want to because, like me, you’ve been a fan for so long that you just don’t want to admit things that are painful. It isn’t easy, but you have to recognize times have changed and the Steelers are no longer on an island unto themselves.
I have to credit Daniel Dudley over at Trib Live Radio who brought this up (especially about the 2012 draft) during my weekly appearance on his show. It has obviously had me thinking and I believe he was totally accurate in bringing it up.
Are these three individuals unique in their situations? No they are not, but they are the most current ones and the ones in the forefront our minds. This has been a trending issue for the Steelers though and one that they must decide how best to address if in some ways they haven’t already.
Obviously the Ben Roethlisberger situation stands out as the greatest of off-field incidents in recent Steelers’ history. His poor decision-making brought a lot of shame and embarrassment not just to the franchise but to many, many fans within the Steelers Nation. There are still some today who choose to never forgive him and there are those who will not cheer for the Steelers until he is gone. This is their right as individuals whether I agree with their stance or not.
James Harrison had issues. Cedrick Wilson had issues. Santonio Holmes, the Super Bowl XLIII MVP had issues which led to him being traded. Even Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward had issues off the field and every one that I’ve mentioned has taken place over the last nine years.
Yes, there are others but my point is clear. The Pittsburgh Steelers were once thought of as the model franchise in the NFL not just because of their consistency on the field but also because of their disposition off of it. They weren’t the ones getting in trouble, but now it seems they are no longer immune.
Regardless of whether Mike Adams did anything wrong early Saturday morning or not, the cloud still hangs over him and the organization. We are a ‘guilty-first’ society now especially in the world of professional sports.
Honestly, I think the Steelers have accepted that the force-field they once had to keep these problems at bay is gone. I think it’s the fans that have had the harder time admitting that even the mighty Steelers have issues today too.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.