There are actually two big stories involved with this headline – both not good for the Steelers.
The first (and most shameful) is that Chris Rainey decided to pull his girlfriend out of a car and slap her. According to the multiple reports from the media and the news release from police Rainey and his girlfriend got into an argument over his cellphone. Rainey pulled her from a car, slapped her, and then they both fell to the ground. The altercation did not stop there as Rainey’s girlfriend ran away, Rainey pursued, grabbed her bag, and the two fell to the ground again. The event stopped there and the police were called. Book’em Danno – simple battery.
This now makes two players from the 2012 draft class who have had run ins with the law while they’ve been on the Steelers’ roster. Rookie defensive lineman Alameda Ta’amu, as you all remember, had his infamous Need For Speed car chase on the South Side earlier in the season. As disturbing as Ta’amu’s reckless evening was where he nearly ran over an innocent by-stander, Rainey’s altercation reveals an unsettling trend in young athletes.
The disciplinary era (or lack thereof) in the college football arena is for a completely different article as the problem really stems from there. I’ll let someone who’s more well versed in the scandals that take place within the NCAA write that gem. But there is indeed a trend of the college football athletes entering the NFL possessing a lack of maturity and respect for a lawful society.
Back in 2010, Rainey was arrested for stalking, a third-degree felony, that landed him in hot water while attending the University of Florida. He sent a pretty nasty text message to an ex-girlfriend. It read, ‘Time to die, bitch.’ Pretty serious implications, and as is the case with many college players threatening young women (see also Notre Dame). Unlike Notre Dame, the Gators dismissed Rainey from the squad. But then he eventually made his way back. When Rainey was selected by the Steelers this draft, he was asked about his past and that stalking charge. His response at the time:
“I became a better man, I matured. I learned a lesson not to do that ever again. It’s something I know that I won’t ever do again. I didn’t even know that you could get in trouble over a text. Plus, I wouldn’t harm a fly.”
I guess that kind of maturation in a young man only lasts so long. Or if a fly had his cell phone, then all bets are off.
The second and increasingly disturbing issue is that the Steelers are having a tough time gauging and assessing potential rookies. There was a time, whether myth or not, when the Steelers could be placed on a podium in being able to obtain players with strong character and dump the bad eggs. There is a paradigm shift taking place where the line is becoming rather blurry and numerous shades of grey (but maybe not 50 of them) as to what is acceptable and not for a persons character. And is the front office in error when they think they can become a rehabilitation center for rookies and players who have a darkened past?
What is ironic about the conduct of the 2012 rookies is that the guy who tested positive for marijuana, Mike Adams, was in a much hotter and bigger spotlight than the two players who had much harsher allegations/arrests – Rainey (stalking and death threats) and Ta’amu (DUI arrest). Even better, Adams kept clean all season and improved in performance as the season went on despite questions and doubts from the media and pundits.
Going 1 for 3 are pretty poor stats. Colbert is certainly on a bit of the hot seat for the trend taking place, but this once again is another rough spot in the Tomlin era of Steeler football. Player assessment is very important, but equally important is what you do with the players once they are on the roster. Maturation on the field is absolutely needed, but I feel that it is part of the deal to also get these young men to mature into upstanding adults. Tomlin has always been considered being a ‘players coach.’ I guess that means letting them do whatever the hell they want, unless they start fumbling the football.
This offseason needs to become a bit of a reassessment of how the Steelers go about assessing incoming rookies and then putting a plan in place on how to address issues (if there are any). Personnel damage control is a very distracting and destructive element to a football team and season. If the Steelers don’t want to clean house with players who have a history prior to the team or those who have had run ins since being on the team, then they sure as hell need to have a plan in place.
UPDATE: The Steelers have released Rainey from the team. Kevin Colbert released a statement: “Under the circumstances and due to this conduct, Chris will no longer be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Well it’s a start, but I think the better and more ideal situation is to not be in a position to have to dismiss players….