Kovacevic: Steelers disciplined? Come again?

Pittsburgh Steelers president and co-owner Art Rooney II stands on the sidelines before an NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec 23, 2012.

By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Steelers absolutely did the right thing by swiftly dumping rookie running back Chris Rainey upon learning Thursday he was arrested in Gainesville, Fla., and charged with striking a woman police identified as his girlfriend during an argument.

The statement issued by Kevin Colbert spelled it out just right: “Chris Rainey‘s actions this morning were extremely disappointing. Under the circumstances and due to this conduct, Chris will no longer be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Exactly. See ya.

Hooray for all involved in the decision.

But sorry, that‘s as far as I‘ll go. I‘m not about to stand, applaud or blow the vuvuzela for an organization that only the previous day denied — right from the top — that it‘s got broader issues with discipline.

Happen to catch that?

When Art Rooney II was asked Wednesday by the Trib‘s Alan Robinson about the perception of a lack of discipline with the Steelers and whether he had discussed that with Mike Tomlin, Rooney replied: “I didn‘t feel that way. I didn‘t look at the problem this year as being a lack of discipline.”

He then went on to talk about the Steelers‘ poor turnover ratio before coming back to the topic: “I really didn‘t see it as a team that lacked discipline. We‘re looking at everything.”


When Rooney, Colbert, Tomlin and the Steelers are “looking at everything,” it‘s fair to wonder if they‘re looking at:

• An average of 58.6 yards in penalties per game, ninth-worst in the NFL. That figure was 53.8 in 2011.

• The alarming portion of those that came before the snap. Or on special teams.

• The failure to ensure LaMarr Woodley would be in top shape, not least of which is on Woodley himself.

• The Chargers game. All of it.

• Antonio Brown‘s thought process. All of it.

• Mike Wallace admitting he often loses focus on the field and, far worse, demonstrating that in kind.

• Rashard Mendenhall blowing off work one memorable Sunday, then never having to explain it publicly other than to essentially laugh it off, then still getting back into the running back rotation.

Discipline, lest we forget, begins off the field.

And this is where I really have a hard time digesting that answer Rooney gave.

On Oct. 14, 2012, Alameda Ta‘amu, a nose tackle who was the Steelers‘ fourth-round draft pick last summer, was arrested on charges of leading Pittsburgh police on a chase through the South Side while driving drunk. He crashed into several parked cars, and multiple officers were needed to restrain him. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

The Steelers suspended him for two games without pay.


Ta‘amu is still awaiting a hearing, but that won‘t change that he got two lousy games from the team for a drunken joyride through a densely populated area.

Where was swift justice then?

The fourth-rounder gets a bye, but the fifth-rounder goes bye-bye?

Let‘s not pretend there isn‘t a problem.

For that matter, let‘s not pretend Rainey‘s alleged incident just fell from the sky. In September 2010, while at the University of Florida, he was arrested on a charge of aggravated stalking and misdemeanor stalking. The latter was for texting his girlfriend at the time, “Time to die.”

That‘s a pretty tough stigma to overcome, but it wasn‘t too tough for the Steelers, I guess. They drafted him last summer, risks and all.

Mike Adams, the big tackle taken in the same draft, came with risks, too. He fell to the second round because he‘d tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, of all places.

Now, I don‘t have a problem with this one, based on the passionate accounts of all concerned that Adams made a mistake. We all do, and his was wholly damaging to himself.

But the larger view still applies: These aren‘t gambles the Steelers used to take, at least not this often. And if they take enough of them, they‘re bound to get bitten.

The San Diego Union-Tribune‘s site has a thoroughly depressing but otherwise awesome “NFL Arrests Database,” where you can track dates, players and incidents by team or even by position.

I‘ll save you the trouble: The Bengals have had 38 since 2000, the Steelers 19.

So there‘s that.

Tomlin still talks the talk, and he does it as well as anyone, both with the media and with his men. But there‘s no question things aren‘t the same. Not with all of the above, plus far lesser but still telling stuff such as Maurkice Pouncey hawking T-shirts right after a Super Bowl loss, James Harrison feuding with Roger Goodell, Ryan Clark spouting off on Twitter ...

Let‘s hope the handling of Rainey, if not the assessment of Rooney, represents an acknowledgement of that.