It seems every year I have to take the time to write about the “Steeler Way” and how it just isn’t what many believe it once was or if it ever existed at all. There are numerous ways to define the Steeler Way and some of them discuss how players give back and stay active in the Pittsburgh community long after their playing days are over and I can’t argue that part one bit.
Others will talk about how it relates to the way the organization does things in terms of patience with coaches and draft picks and that’s also hard to argue but there is another side to this too.
The method in which the Steeler Way is most often defined is when it comes to dealing with players who do things wrong off the field. It is with this thought in mind that the organization has not always followed its’ own principles and ideals.
Let us go back to March of 2008 when Steelers’ wide receiver Cedrick Wilson was charged with assaulting his former girlfriend in a bar. He was cut from the team almost immediately yet James Harrison was charged with assaulting his girlfriend in her home less than two weeks prior.
Harrison was never cut.
With all of the spotlight on domestic violence in the National Football League in 2014, you’d think the Steelers would be a little more cautious about bringing Harrison back. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote earlier that the Steelers spoke with Harrison prior to bringing him out of retirement about the climate in the NFL. Mike Tomlin was pleased with what he heard and aboard came Harrison.
So what exactly is the “Steeler Way” when it comes to domestic violence? Apparently it’s no different than any other team in the NFL. It’s about winning and for players that help achieve that goal better than others it’s a chance to keep playing while the Cedrick Wilson’s of the world are released.
When asked why one player was kept and one was released in 2008, you might recall Steelers’ Chairman Dan Rooney saying;
“I know many are asking the question of [why] we released Wilson and Harrison we kept,” Rooney said. “The circumstances — I know of the incidents, they are completely different. In fact, when I say we don’t condone these things, we don’t, but we do have to look at the circumstances that are involved with other players and things like that, so they’re not all the same.”
“What Jimmy Harrison was doing and how the incident occurred, what he was trying to do was really well worth it,” Rooney said of Harrison’s initial intent with his son. “He was doing something that was good, wanted to take his son to get baptized where he lived and things like that. She said she didn’t want to do it.”
“It was really well worth it?” Hitting a woman when trying to get a child baptized is apparently OK? That’s news to me. Usually such a decision is made by both parents and not just one isn’t it?
This issue is but a mere example of how the Steeler Way doesn’t exist. In the preseason Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were cited for marijuana use. We can debate the legalities of that later but I think we all would admit there are much better places to do this activity than in a car on a busy street.
If the Steeler Way existed, wouldn’t they have been punished? I suppose they were when they were forced to play longer than normal in a meaningless preseason game but is that really punishment as it normally is defined in the NFL?
I admit however that I’m no different than most fans. I cheered for Bell and Blount Sunday night just like you did and when Harrison makes a splash play I’ll cheer that too. The way I see it is that if my team’s ownership is OK with these guys then why shouldn’t I?
After all, that seems to be the real “Steeler Way.”
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteelDad and the website @SCBlitz. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/steelcityblitz and on Fancred.com. You can hear him weekly during the season on Trib-Live Radio Steelers Pre-Game
photo courtesy steelers.com