Ask anyone in Steeler Nation what makes this organization so great and one of the consistent answers will be ‘a classy organization that takes pride in professionalism and honor’ – The Steeler Way. Yet this mantra can’t help but be shaken to the core after the organization reinstated rookie Alameda Ta’amu following a two game suspension because he decided recreating Smoky and The Bandit while drunk was a good idea on the South Side.
Prior to October 14th’s romp and subsequent arrest, Ta’amu’s wrap sheet was small but similar. The South Side incident was not Ta’amu’s first run in with the law. During 2009, Ta’amu was arrested for DUI while attending The University of Washington. He pleaded guilty then and we can only presume he received a mere slap on the wrist. The 2012 draft is finding itself full of players with a ‘past.’ Quick, someone ask DeCastro if he was arrested for kicking a cat, so it doesn’t become a surprise to us all later on.
So, a couple of players from this recent draft class have sordid pasts. I’m a believer of second chances, and I can accept the Steelers selecting players that have slightly questionable character. But, simply acknowledging the previous behavioral problem does not absolve them from the inherent risks involved bringing someone like that into the organization. The risk, however, shouldn’t be a compromise of your own organization’s philosophy and mantra. Rather, the risk should be about the player and whether he can rise above his past and have a positive impact on the team.
Ta’amu chose to squander his second chance and decided to drink… and drink….. drink some more, then drive. He committed a felony. A felony. Not a petty crime like eating a box of ice cream bars in the grocery store then forgetting to pay for them. We are talking serious stuff like almost killing someone with a car, resisting arrest from police, and aggravated assault. More serious than liking weed. And almost as grave as sexual assault. (You know, things that will also put your reputation at risk.)
The Steelers suspended him two games. Just two. This doesn’t take into account the action the NFL will probably place on Ta’amu for violating the professional conduct policy nor does it take into account what the city of Pittsburgh – aka THE LAW – will enact as a punishment. Ta’amu is very much in danger of facing jail time for his actions. The pro active judgement laid down on Ta’amu by the Steelers will not deflect future punishments.
In fact, the punishment seems disingenuous as well as just overall confusing after the Steelers quietly reinstated him on Tuesday. They’ve now put their own reputation at risk. The Steeler Way is quickly mutating into damage control from a once prideful way of running an organization. And what’s the payoff? It’s not like Ta’amu was busting down the doors of Canton in his rookie season. He hasn’t even suited up on game day for the Steelers in the five weeks prior to the South Side arrest. Ta’amu hasn’t proven his worth on the field, so why are the Steelers keeping him on this roster (or at the very least suspend him for the rest of the season) when more than likely he’s compromised his relationship with the city of Pittsburgh as well as Steeler Nation. I mean for God’s sake – where are we? Cincinnati and the Bengals? Cripes.
The Steeler Way. It used to invoke images and feelings of a franchise that is the envy of the NFL and most other sports organizations. This hypocritical shift, however, is instead beginning to invoke feelings of confusion and images of thugs. I’m shocked that the Steelers would even consider keeping someone like Ta’amu on the roster.
Maybe The Steeler Way is now rehabilitation and Mike Tomlin is the new Betty Ford.