The Steelers had a team meeting on Monday, and the hot topic was a new "zero tolerance policy" for off-field misconduct that was reportedly presented by coach Mike Tomlin. At least that's what Willie Colon says:
"We were told early this morning either you get in line or you get kicked out of line. You are going to be traded or you're not going to be here. If your conduct is going to play a part in you not being a good football player, they are going to get rid of you. ...There is a zero tolerance, not only with the NFL but with the Steelers."That sounds pretty tough...but the problem is, in another account, Tomlin wouldn't confirm that he actually said that:
Tomlin met with players before practice, and that's where players said the message was delivered. The coach, however, denied making those remarks. Tomlin rarely discusses issues he addresses with his players. But defensive end Aaron Smith confirmed remarks were made to the Steelers "as a group."OK, maybe it was meant to stay in-house and Colon blabbed. I can get that. At the very least, it's a long overdue step in the right direction, although I find it hard to believe that a locker room full of grown men are essentially being told to be on their best behavior, as if the message has somehow not yet sunk in to this point in life.
"Guys took it different ways, depending on how they interpreted it, but I think ... after what we've seen go on, there's not going to be much tolerance for stuff around here," Smith said.
I don't know at exactly what point the Steelers lost their way dealing with this kind of behavior; but it's good to hear that they are finally addressing it and starting on the long path back to restoring their once much-higher-regarded image. It's going to be a tough road, and there may be a few more casualties along the way, but the time to do this is now. Well, actually it was a few years ago...but if that were the case, we might not have celebrated that Harrison/Holmes-led Super Bowl, considering their respective legal backgrounds to that point...would we? But better late than never, I suppose.
The new policy aside, an even more interesting quote came from the lips of newly re-acquired WR Antwaan Randle-El, who threw this blind item supreme out there: "Some of us have had the same situations; they just didn't come to light. We can't point the finger at everyone."
We'll let everyone's speculation run wild on that one.
Meanwhile, speculation also continued to run wild as to when Ben Roethlisberger's suspension would actually be doled out, with conflicting reports coming out left and right since Sunday night. The timing of the announcement is a hot topic, with the draft and the schedule release coming this week, but that's more for the conspiracy theorists. I prefer to deal in the land of facts, and one fact is that Roger Goodell spoke to Dan Patrick today on this very topic:
"The issue here is with respect to a pattern of behavior and bad judgments," Goodell said on Patrick's radio program. "You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you've violated a personal conduct policy, and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league and everyone associated with the NFL. And that is what my concern is, and I have expressed that directly to Ben, obviously, and I will be making a decision as soon as I possibly can."I hope everyone in the "he wasn't even arrested/charged" camp paid attention to that statement. Regardless of the fact that he wasn't charged, he's brought a tremendous amount of bad press to himself, his team, and his league, with some facts that are undeniably true. And that, plus whatever additional information Goodell knows that we aren't privy to, constitutes a violation of the league's conduct policy.
With those poor decisions comes a loss of consumer confidence, a loss of corporate confidence, and a loss of merchandise sales; even the beef jerky guys want to distance themselves from Roethlisberger. And don't forget two major groups who are disgusted with Roethlisberger the most right now: female fans (of which the Steelers have a massive amount of) and fathers of daughters (who seemingly call talk shows to vent about "if that were my daughter..." every 30 seconds or so).
In addition to these interested parties, Goodell has to consider past precedent of other suspensions as to be consistent with his rulings and avoid claims of favoritism towards the Steelers/Roethlisberger. There are many eyeballs intently watching this case, and how it is handled will either please or upset a number of these groups - but I doubt everyone will walk away content with the outcome. Personally, I agree with Chris Mortensen's take, that this will be a conditional suspension like Michael Vick got last year. But regardless of what happens, one thing is for sure: there are no winners in a situation like this.
Steelers: Zero tolerance for off-field misconduct [Trib]
Goodell: Roethlisberger violated policy [ESPN]
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