The Steelers decided to send a message when they released wide receiver Cedrick Wilson yesterday, hours after he was arrested for punching his former girlfriend in the face.
Dan Rooney, the club's chairman, talked to coach Mike Tomlin and football operations director Kevin Colbert Wednesday night and decided then to "get it done,'' according to Rooney. "We're extremely disappointed with this incident,'' Rooney said. "The Steelers do not condone violence of any kind, especially against women.
"The majority of our players are good citizens and make numerous positive contributions to the community. Unfortunately, these kinds of incidents reflect poorly on all our players and many innocent and good people are considered guilty by association, they get thrown into the pot, so to speak."
Asked if cutting Wilson so quickly might send a message, Rooney answered, "Let's say this, I hope so; I don't know that it will, I hope so.''
It should, responded Shirl Regan, director of the Women's Center and Shelter of Pittsburgh.
"I think that is the message people will hear, that people will support and applaud,'' Regan said. "It will set a tone not just for professional sports teams but it shows no matter who you are that this violence is not OK."
Wilson's arrest was the second in 11 days of a Steelers player for domestic assault. Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison was arrested March 8 for assaulting his girlfriend in Ohio Township. He has been undergoing individual anger management counseling, according to his lawyer, Bob Del Greco. Harrison also immediately acknowledged his wrongdoing publicly and said he did not want to be associated with domestic violence. Harrison has a preliminary hearing before a magistrate in Belleview April 3.
"I know many are asking the question of [why] we released Wilson and Harrison we kept,'' Rooney said. "The circumstances -- I know of the incidents, they are completely different. In fact, when I say we don't condone these things, we don't, but we do have to look at the circumstances that are involved with other players and things like that, so they're not all the same."
In Harrison's case, Rooney said the player was trying to take his son to be baptized. Wilson had a previous incident with his girlfriend in which she was charged with shooting a gun in his home. Wilson had walked away from an argument he had with her before the shots were fired and he was not charged with a crime.
"What Jimmy Harrison was doing and how the incident occurred, what he was trying to do was really well worth it," Rooney said of Harrison's initial intent with his son. "He was doing something that was good, wanted to take his son to get baptized where he lived and things like that. She said she didn't want to do it."
A Steelers spokesman later stressed that Rooney meant that Harrison went to the house with good intentions, but that Rooney was not excusing what he did.
Two other Steelers were arrested over the past two years on domestic charges. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes had charges dropped in Ohio from an incident shortly after he was drafted in 2006, and halfback Najeh Davenport is contesting charges filed against him last fall in Cleveland.
Although not singling out any Steelers, Rooney said, "We think a lot of these players who have problems should get anger management courses and get some help."
Indeed, Shirl Regan would like to talk to the Steelers on that topic.
"We're composing a letter again to the Steelers requesting a meeting to talk to them about training around lifestyle issues, particularly intimate partner involvement.
"I think what we're seeing with the attention these situations are getting is that violence with pro football players is no different than what happens every day in other people's lives, it just does not attract media attention. Hundreds of women are abused every day, an epidemic that is just ripping our country apart."
It's possible Wilson could have been released before the 2008 season anyway, for competitive and salary cap reasons. His salary next season of $2,085,000 was wiped off the books when the Steelers released him yesterday - virtually tripling their available salary cap room to about $3 million.
Wilson, 29, signed a four-year, $8 million contract with the Steelers in 2005 as an unrestricted free agent from the San Francisco 49ers. He caught 26 passes in 2005 and 37 in 2006 when he became a starter. He fell to No. 4 receiver last season and caught 18 passes. He had 81 receptions for 1,162 yards and two touchdowns in his three seasons with the Steelers.
Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette