A story that was dead and gone months ago has now successfully been brought back to the forefront thanks to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. A story that should have been a non issue save for maybe the obligatory “how has this year been different for you” type of comments was rekindled, and not by coincidence if the eyes of the Steeler Nation. Yesterday the epic commissioner had this to say to SI’s Peter King:
“The one thing I take a little bit of issue with is when guys tell me they’re being screwed,” Goodell said to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King. “[Most often] they’re not recognizing they have a role in it. [I talked to] I bet two dozen [Steelers] players, and not one, not a single player, went to his defense. I wasn’t personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, ‘He wouldn’t sign my jersey.’ ”Read the full article at the Post Gazette
Goodell is doing his best to try and divide the Steelers locker room, doing and saying anything he can to take the focus of the team off the game and back on Ben and his off field issues last summer. Peter King clarified himself later that day, as did Goodell but not until his goal had been accomplished in his mind. Coach Mike Tomlin was asked that day in the Steelers media session and his response typical Tomlin, but still clear and firm:
“I don’t know what [Goodell] means, or you mean, by ‘coming to his defense,’ ” said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to the first direction question on the matter. “I don’t know the nature of the conversation or the discussion, so it’s going to be difficult for me to comment on it, to be quite honest with you. Ben is a highly respected member of our football team.
Ben’s comments, also aided by his teammates Hines Ward and James Farrior who spoke up in his defense: “I’m just thankful my teammates are who they are, and I’m really appreciative of them,”
Goodell called Peter King and told him that the writer had mistakingly added “steelers” to that quote. Now, I generally like Peter King, he’s a good guy with great insight and is usually fair in his articles. I can give him a bit of a slide on this one since perhaps there was some confusion or clerical errors, but the Commissioner? No Way! Like I said before he knew exactly what he was doing. He talked about this at the perfect time, just before media day on Tuesday, and even though he backed down a bit he still looks like the golden boy because shortened Ben’s suspension after all and did him a favor. Doesn’t he know by now that the Steelers are not going to sit by and just let him take down their Quarterback? Doesn’t he know by now that we are not his “new NFL” team where everybody is nice and we don’t hit very hard because that just wouldn’t be proper? The Steelers are here against all odds, on a mission to bring back #7 at all costs.
What they have been through this year not only at the hands of the NFL front office, but also with injuries of their own is well documented. Despite all that they have overcome, finding ways to win football games. They are truly a family, just as Verron Haynes talked about on our show last night. Nothing will tear that locker room apart, and certainly not at this point being so close to the Super Bowl. The Rooney’s have been building this type of close knit, family atmosphere for their team since the Chief took over. Their values and beliefs in how a team should be run are reflected every week; win, lose, or draw. Other teams talk about “being a family” and “sticking together, being resilient” etc. and I’m sure they are to some degree. When you look at a team like Pittsburgh, openly standing up for their teammates, their coaches, their play style, and refusing to back down even in the wake of raising the ire of the NFL Front Office you can see how much these guys take pride in being a Steeler.
Other teams might have crumbled in the wake of the rules in our “new NFL”, or backed down and been politically correct when confronted with the issues the Steelers have faced. When you are a member of the Steelers, you handle things differently and that rubs off on your peers and inspires others. Goodell may have successfully opened up a can of worms, or dug a dead story from it’s grave, but his plan to break the Steelers from inside out has not worked since last summer and you can bet it won’t work now. He has successfully, yet again, fueled the Steelers fire and bonded them even tighter.