The Pittsburgh Steelers used to consider themselves to be a classier organization than the other clubs in the National Football League. The Pittsburgh Steelers used to pride themselves on not having players on their team who were beset by the bad behavior and problems with the law that seem to follow some other clubs. They can’t possibly think that anymore, can they?
Recently, the Steelers had two players arrested and charged in connection with domestic violence incidents: linebacker James Harrison and backup wide receiver Cedrick Wilson. Harrison was the first to be charged, and the Steelers responded by doing nothing to their Pro Bowl player and team MVP. Then Wilson was arrested, and the team responding by cutting him immediately. For the record, let me state that a person is innocent until proven guilty, it is very easy to make an accusation, and current domestic violence laws give little consideration to the rights of the accused. But Harrison confessed to the police, and Wilson apologized in the media for his actions. Steelers chairman Dan Rooney then insulted the intelligence of me and every other football fan listening by making a statement to the media that Wilson was dropped to make an example because of the domestic violence charges, while Harrison was not dropped because his incident stemmed from a dispute over getting his baby baptized.
The truth of the matter is, the Steelers acted like pretty much every other team in the NFL does: they cut the mediocre player, and let the good player get away with it. Unlike most other teams in the NFL, the Steelers immediate cutting of Wilson and subsequent statements to the press highlight how completely unprepared the Steelers’ public relations department is to deal with potential bad publicity. The Steelers have seldom had to deal with negative publicity throughout the history of the franchise, and clearly they weren’t prepared. By cutting Wilson so quickly, they made the fact that they didn’t cut (or even discipline) Harrison all the more apparent. The Steelers and fans looking at the world through black and gold colored glasses can try to rationalize how the two players’ situations are different all they want, but the fact is this: both men hit their girlfriends, both men confessed to it, and both men publicly apologized and have apparently attempted to make amends after the incidents by entering counseling. I don’t see a difference.
James Harrison’s charges were dropped last week at the request of the victim. The Pittsburgh Steelers would prefer you forget about his behavior. However, I will not forget that in the off-season this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers showed that like pretty much every other team in the NFL, they’re willing to let a star player get away with things that get lesser players cut.