by Stephen D. Riley
For New Pittsburgh Courier
What message did the Pittsburgh Steelers send by booting one highly troubled player while retaining another? Inquiring minds would like to know. You hold onto a guy coming off back-to-back off-seasons of sexual allegations, but trade a guy who’s coming off back-to-back seasons of drug charges. See the difference? Sex scandals and drugs often go together, but are nowhere near related.
The Steelers’ front office should be prepared to be slapped with several labels ranging from hypocritical to racist during the next few weeks, but a deeper look into things reveals that justice was served in Pittsburgh.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has committed several idiotic college freshmen-like mistakes during his tenure in “Steel town,” from sleeping with college freshmen to drinking alongside them. His internal bout over wearing a helmet the day he flew into a windshield from his motorcycle was a sigh of relief away from being one of the greatest tragedies in sports history. And his often-leaked online photo collection of drunken escapades depicts an immature leader not yet professionally equipped to handle the flood of NFL success.
But while Roethlisberger has turned himself into a village idiot, ex-teammate Santonio Holmes has turned himself into a habitual troublemaker. His trade to the New York Jets for a fifth round pick wasn’t a racist reaction or a means of scapegoating the former Super Bowl MVP, but instead served as a notice that you can’t smoke weed, physically assault women and journey in and out of courtrooms and expect to continue a career with the Steelers.
For all of Roethlisberger’s drawbacks, he’s never broken the law or been arrested as a member of the Steelers, and his two cases of sexual allegations involved inconsistent stories from his accusers. While Holmes has dodged jail time in place of slaps on the wrist, his March Twitter postings telling a fan to “kill urself” and it’s “time to wake n bake,” in the wake of allegations that on March 7 he assaulted a woman with a glass at a Florida nightclub, punched his ticket out of town.
For those unaware, the term “wake n bake,” as defined by UrbanDictionary.com, means to get out of bed in the morning and smoke pot. While catchy, posting that on your public Twitter page goes two rights and a left beyond stupid. How do you get your name placed in the news over assaulting a woman (for the second time in his career; he assaulted his child’s mother in 2006) then less than a week later post you’re about to “wake n bake” on your Twitter page? After being suspended for a game in 2008 when a traffic stop turned up three marijuana joints in his truck, you would think Holmes would’ve been straying away from his Cheech & Chong impersonations but, alas, common sense isn’t common in everyone.
The Steelers are a patient franchise, but drug use is something they don’t deal with for long. Talented tight end Eric Greene’s run with the team was highlighted by his spectacular play and marred by a cocaine habit that forced the team to release him after the 1994 season. Running back Byron “Bam” Morris was released in 1996 after a police stop turned up four kilograms of marijuana and one gram of cocaine. Holmes’ boot continues along the line of Pittsburgh’s “no drugs on your mind” rule.
As long as there’s money, there will forever be sex, drugs and bad behavior in professional sports. Only one of the aforementioned is illegal and apparently only two of the aforementioned are allowed in Pittsburgh.
(Stephen D. Riley is a staff writer for the Afro American.)