What happened to the Pittsburgh Steelers? It was just a year and a half ago that they were under a sea of confetti celebrating their NFL-record sixth Super Bowl title. It seemed as if they had it all. They had a quarterback whose future was as bright as any young player in the league. They had a fresh, young, fiery head coach who had won a Super Bowl title in just his second season. They had the best defense in the league that always made that timely, game-changing play when their backs were against the wall.
Fast-forward to the present day and you’ll find an organization that is in unfamiliar territory. The events that have transpired over the past year or so aren’t conducive to the high standards that have been the norm since the franchise began. The front office isn’t used to having to defend their players because they can’t behave in the public eye, but they sure have had their fair share of practice over the past year or so.
What brought me to this subject was the recent story that broke involving Steelers first-round draft pick and former Florida Gator Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey allegedly received $100,000 from a representative of an agent between the Gators’ loss to Alabama in the SEC championship and their final game against Cincinnati in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Florida law enforcement could get involved if it’s proven that the state’s agent registration laws were violated. Granted, this incident happened before Pouncey was a Steeler, but it still creates a distraction within the organization. This is just one incident on a list of many involving Steelers that have used questionable judgment when not on the football field.
The most recognizable of the Steelers to get in trouble with the law is Ben Roethlisberger. We all know, or we think we know, the story by now because of the hundreds of hours of coverage the incident has received. Many of the details of what happened between Roethlisberger and his alleged victim have been released, but some are still fuzzy. The bottom line is that he acted in a manner that a person of his stature should never act. Roethlisberger allegedly encouraged a 20-year-old college student to take numerous shots of alcohol at a nightclub, and then got one of his bodyguards to escort her into a hallway to wait for him to arrive. Then, according to her statement, Roethlisberger exposed himself to her in the hallway and when she tried to walk away from him, he followed her into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. There are a couple ways this scenario could’ve panned out, but every one ends with Roethlisberger looking like anything but a gentleman and everything like a guy people have stopped respecting as a football player but mostly as a person.
Much like his quarterback buddy, kicker Jeff Reed likes to make a drunken fool of himself in public too. The difference is that Reed isn’t fooling around with women in the bathroom, but is instead wrestling around with paper towel dispensers. Reed has been known to be a bit of a party animal, hopping from bar to bar with his Guido-like, spiked frosted tips and strategically placed wristband that resides on his forearm. Reed’s antics didn’t really hurt anyone like Roethlisberger’s did, but they did make him look like someone who can’t control himself when he drinks alcohol.
Apparently his fellow teammate and bar buddy Matt Spaeth has the same problem. Last October, the Steelers’ tight end was with Reed when he was arrested and booked for public urination after using a spot next to an SUV as his own personal restroom. Come on, man. Just go to the bathroom in the bar. This is just flat out stupidity on Spaeth’s part. To add to the story, Reed allegedly jumped out the SUV that Spaeth was christening and “curled his fists” at the officers. He was then arrested on charges of assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and public intoxication. What a duo!
Former Steelers’ wide receiver Santonio Holmes has also been arrested on various occasions, which was one of the reasons he was traded to the New York Jets this past off-season. There were other bigger reasons for the trade, but Holmes being a regular troublemaker off the field didn’t help his cause to stay on a team that already had enough personnel problems to deal with. Before he left the Steelers, though, Holmes was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. It isn’t known if Holmes was suspended for missing a required drug test or if he tested positive for a banned substance, but his history of marijuana use might be an indicator of the reason for the suspension. Aside from being charged with marijuana possession in 2008, Holmes rap sheet also includes a domestic-violence arrest as well as his most recent incident in which a woman in an Orlando nightclub accused him of throwing a glass of alcohol in her face. The woman is filing a lawsuit against Holmes for the incident.
Super Bowl XLIII MVP James Harrison has had his problems with the law as well. In 2008, he was charged with simple assault and criminal mischief after an altercation with his girlfriend. According to reports, he and his girlfriend had an argument and Harrison broke through the door that she had locked herself in and slapped her in the face. This is more of a personal matter than being drunk in public or smoking marijuana, but it is still an issue of breaking the law.
Nowadays, an athlete getting into trouble with the law isn’t that out of the ordinary. The worst thing about it for the athletes, though, is that the media makes it so everyone knows every little thing they do wrong. But athletes should, key word being should, realize that millions of young people idolize them and that they should think about their actions before acting them out. There are other professional teams that have had troubled players just like the Steelers do now. But unlike teams such as the Bengals, who have had more than their fair share of goobers, the Steelers have always held their players to the highest of standards. Well, someone better take charge and start reinforcing those standards or the Steelers won’t be the franchise everyone looks up to anymore, they will just be the punch line of everyone’s jokes.