The quick reaction to Chris Rainey’s arrest in Gainesville, Fla., by the Steelers is surprising. Normally in such circumstances they step back, analyze the situation and react after they have all the information on what happened.
They did that with Alameda Ta’amu and his actions were much more dangerous and legally troubling than what Rainey did. Yet, Ta’amu was suspended for just two games and then added back to their 53-man roster. Two weeks later they released him and signed him to the practice squad when the Steelers needed an extra wide receiver because of injuries. Ta’amu was signed from the practice squad back to the 53-man roster before the final game of the season.
Ta’amu still faces multiple felony charges in that wild ride he took through the South Side Oct. 14 in his Navigator. He was drunk, hit multiple cars and injured a woman in one of them – something Gainesville police said Rainey did not do with his slap. Two cops admitted they drew their guns and were prepared to shoot Ta’amu during the ordeal except there were too many citizens around and they were afraid them might hit someone else.
So, for this, Ta’amu remains on the Steelers roster and Rainey will leave for slapping his girlfriend once with his open hand.
Let’s try to understand why without a more specific reason from the Steelers other than Kevin Colbert’s statement:
One, Rainey’s timing was bad. It came after Ta’amu’s incident, after the Steelers went 8-8 and after many suggestions – wrongful in my opinion -- by fans and on talk radio that Mike Tomlin had lost control of his team.
Two, the Steelers say they investigated Rainey’s 2010 charges of stalking when he famously texted a woman that it was “Time to die” and were satisfied that he, in his own words, would never hurt a fly and would not be a problem for them in that regard. They may have told him they would have zero tolerance – just as they did with Mike Adams in his admitted marijuana use – that one more similar incident and he would be gone. If that were the case, then what they did Thursday by waiving him – technically, they cannot do so until after the Super Bowl – was consistent with what they told him they would do. And while the Post-Gazette dug up a previous DUI charge lodged against Ta’amu while he was in college, it was little known and the Steelers may have been unaware of that previous incident.
Three, there remains the matter of NFL punishment regarding teams. The league has the right to dock the Steelers draft picks and/or fines if it determines there is a pattern of lawlessness among their players. Releasing Rainey might have been the equivalent of a college team punishing itself to avoid NCAA sanctions.
Four, never underestimate the power of public relations. The Steelers have the widest female fan following of any NFL team. While Ta’amu did injure a woman during his chase, he did not intentionally reach out to hurt her. Rainey looked at his girlfriend and slapped her in the face.
Those may be the reasons for the Steelers letting Rainey go, but before the incident they valued him as a unique player who not only led them in kickoff returns but could expand his role in their backfield in the coming years. Some other team will claim him off waivers because he comes at a minimum price and by the time the Super Bowl ends, his incident will have cooled down and perhaps we will have more insight into what actually occurred.
The Steelers are left without a true kick returner and without the special talent on offense they thought Rainey could be. Rainey’s 1,035 kickoff yards in 2012 ranked third in team history, ahead of a guy named Rod Woodson, who was fourth with 982.
It makes their decision to release him more meaningful than if Rainey were merely a practice squad player.
--- And now, we have just one question from You:
--- YOU: I read somewhere that Haley was appointed to identify new offensive line coach candidates. If the reports are true that Haley might be leaving for a HC job, does this seem unusual? Would Tomlin tell a guy who might not be here to locate the next OL coach?
ME: Mike Tomlin probably gave Todd Haley that assignment before the Cardinals came knocking. Either way, that situation will be resolved quickly and Haley can go on to either coach the Cardinals or find a line coach for the Steelers.
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