Is Pittsburgh The New Cincinnati??

By Ron Cook
Updated: March 30, 2010

Courtesy of Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

Courtesy of Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH — A week ago, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin talked of the franchise’s standards of conduct being “above and beyond those of our peers” in the NFL.

It seemed like a bunch of baloney, the height of arrogance from a man who is running what appears to be an out-of-control team if you believe the newspaper headlines.

Somehow, it seems even worse this morning. Above and beyond?

These days, the Steelers are no different than the Cincinnati Bengals were a few years ago when they were a national joke because their players couldn’t stay out of trouble.

Above and beyond?

Star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is facing sexual assault allegations in two states. Things are such a mess with the second case involving a 20-year-old college student in Georgia that the Steelers, at least for the moment, don’t want Roethlisberger around their South Side practice facility to work out with his teammates because he would cause a distraction.

Above and beyond?

In February, the Steelers put their franchise tag on kicker Jeff Reed, assuring that he will make $2,814,000 next season. They did so after he had been involved in two incidents involving the police in the previous 13 months.

In April 2009, the team gave linebacker James Harrison a six-year, $51,175,000 contract. They did so after he had been involved in a domestic violence case 13 months earlier in which the charges were dropped after he underwent anger-management counseling.

Above and beyond? Please. What’s next? Based on recent precedent, it will be a big new contract for wide receiver Santonio Holmes. How sad is that?

It’s nice to think it won’t come to that. Holmes, who is entering the final year of his current contract and could become a free agent after the ’10 season, has some resume.

He was the Most Valuable Player in the Steelers’ win against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII after the ’08 season. He is their best receiver now that Hines Ward is approaching the end of his Hall of Fame-caliber career.

But the Steelers are going to have to swallow awfully hard to do a new multimillion-dollar deal with Holmes. News broke Monday that he has been named in a civil lawsuit because of an alleged incident involving a woman March 7 at an Orlando, Fla., club.

According to the suit filed by Anshonae Mills, Holmes threw a glass in her face, cutting her above the eye and temporarily blinding her because of the alcohol in the glass.

She said she didn’t file a criminal complaint because she was pressured by the Orlando police not to press charges. Holmes has denied any wrongdoing.

This is the fourth incident involving Holmes since the Steelers made him their No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft. Charges of disorderly conduct and domestic violence in separate cases not long after the draft were dropped.

A misdemeanor marijuana charge in October 2008 was avoided when Holmes’ attorney successfully argued that a police traffic stop violated his rights.

This is a guy you want to see the Steelers re-sign?

I’m guessing it’s not going to happen. I have to think the Steelers are more than ready to make a statement to their players that they are tired of all this nonsense.

It’s easy to do with Holmes by not giving him that new contract. That’s not being “above and beyond.” That’s just running out of patience with players who repeatedly embarrass and bring shame to the organization.

Roethlisberger, for instance.

Maybe especially Roethlisberger.

How furious the Rooneys and Tomlin must be with Roethlisberger, to the degree that there has to be at least some sentiment inside the organization to get rid of him.

How furious NFL commissioner Roger Goodell must be because of the way Roethlisberger has tarnished the league’s brand on not one, but two occasions. “We are concerned that Ben continues to put himself in this position,” Goodell said last week.

At this point, it must be noted, Roethlisberger is guilty of nothing more than bad judgment, of hanging out with the wrong people in the wrong places at the wrong times.

Don’t blame the Steelers for being overly tolerant in his case. There’s not another team in the NFL that would cut him just because of poor judgment. Franchise quarterbacks are too hard to find, especially one who has won two Super Bowls.

But what if Roethlisberger is charged in the Georgia case? Surely, Goodell would suspend him for violating the NFL’s personal conduct code.

And what if Roethlisberger is found guilty of the charges? Then, the Steelers would have a big decision to make. Then, we would find out just how “above and beyond” they are as a franchise.