In the calendar year of 2013, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had two players in trouble with the law. Both were rookies last season and both have met different fates to this point. Many have already asked why? Why are these two guys who both committed egregious acts away from the game treated differently by the Steelers?
I have to ask you first to take off your black ‘n gold colored glasses because in order to be objective and in order to accept the truth you must not think as though our team can do no wrong.
Back on October 14th of 2012, rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu was arrested in Pittsburgh for several incidents including driving under the influence and aggravated assault. During his ‘drive’ that early morning he also swiped several parked vehicles and injured a person in one of them.
Last week, Ta’amu agreed to a plea deal and was sentenced to 18 months probation, 150 hours of community service and must serve four days in a DUI housing program. As of this writing, he is still on the roster of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In January, following the Steelers’ 8-8 season, rookie running back Chris Rainey was arrested for one count of simple battery or what the state of Florida calls “dating violence.” Rainey was accused of striking his girlfriend in an argument over a cell phone. Within hours of his arrest, Rainey was waived by the Steelers.
My personal opinion is that we should never compare incidents because there are so many factors that we just don’t know about other than we read or are told. These two incidents I find compelling however because of how the Steelers have treated them.
Let’s keep in mind, the Steelers could very well release Ta’amu at some point in the off-season but for now he remains with the team. Why then I must ask, did they have such a quick hook with Rainey?
Both Ta’amu and Rainey had prior swipes with the law. Ta’amu was arrested for driving under the influence in December of 2009 while attending the University of Washington and had the the charge reduced to negligent driving.
Rainey’s prior run-in with the law was a misdemeanor stalking charge while at the University of Florida. This was a result of a threatening text message sent to a woman.
While I don’t condone DUI’s or violence against women in any way, shape or form, I have to ask just why hasn’t Mr. Ta’amu been sent packing?
The answer is a simple one and has to do with the business of football and the influence of society as a larger factor in and of itself. In 2008, James Harrison and Cedric Wilson were both arrested on charges of domestic violence and Harrison remained on the team while Wilson was immediately released.
The Steelers’ front office said the situations were reviewed on a “case-by-case” basis and this is what led to their decision-making.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that Harrison was a far more valuable commodity than Wilson but is Ta’amu a greater commodity than Chris Rainey? I think it’s debatable but I’d certainly say Rainey was far more important to the team than Ta’amu has been to this point and wouldn’t you?
The deeper issue here are the charges themselves. The National Football League and it’s 32 teams cannot tolerate violence on the field these days so they sure as hell aren’t going to tolerate it of the field. Especially when it happens to be violence against women.
Does this mean driving under the influence is OK? No, it certainly does not but it is received far better than domestic violence. I’m sure you recall Donte’ Stallworth who was driving intoxicated, struck and killed a pedestrian and missed just one season of pro football. What if that had been a domestic violence case?
As Steelers’ fans we must understand that more than ever the game is a business and decisions are made on a basis of “what helps me be more successful in the long run?” The Steelers aren’t alone in this decision-making process because all teams go through it with their players.
We must not throw the first stone though at those other 31 teams either when they have player conduct issues because we do live in a glass house whether it be black ‘n gold or not.
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.