A Stark Reality: Steelers Off Season A Whimper
By Jim Conroy
The return of Max Starks teeters on a wing and a prayer.
Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Since the draft ended I had been finally calming down from the Steelers off season moves that started with the release of James Harrison as free agency began in March 2013. Then this week the Steelers signed Tackle Guy Whimper and my head exploded. I don’t understand the perceived dislike of Max Starks? I don’t understand the slamming of the door in James Harrison’s face when he came crawling back despite the opinion of most he would never do so. I, like many Steeler fans, don’t get a lot of things the front office has been doing this off season.
However these are just two examples of many questionable decisions that can be traced all the way back to personnel decisions made right after the Steelers 5th game in the 2012 season. It all started with the release of TE Weslye Saunders after the Titans game in favor of 7 year veteran Leonard Pope who clearly had no long term future in the Steelers organization. Saunders appeared to have upside as he was young, athletic and had good hands. Saunders only in his 2nd year looked like a solid back up to Heath Miller with the potential to replace Miller when the time came. The Steelers traded youth for age. It was not a season-altering move, but the first in a long line of problematic decisions.
Next was the move to cut Brian Hoyer who they had signed on November 20, 2012 after injuries to starting Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (week 10 Chiefs) and backup Byron Leftwich (week 11 Ravens) in back to back games. I was excited that they had finally gotten a younger back up QB with NFL experience that had been successful in his limited playing time with the Patriots. Hoyer served as the backup in Weeks 12 and 13 and was released on December 8, 2012 in a move to add CB Josh Victorian to the roster a day before the San Diego Chargers debacle. Hoyer did not make it through waivers and was claimed by the Cardinals. It was a foregone conclusion that Byron Leftwich was done in Pittsburgh and possibly Charlie Batch as well. Why the Steelers did not put an injured Leftwich on IR and keep Hoyer is another mystery. Leftwich never played another down for the Steelers. Particularly even more alarming is it was widely reported after the season ended the Steelers really wanted Hoyer to be the back up QB in 2013.
Did Rainey Pay For Ta’amu’s Mistakes?
The two off field incidents involving DT Alameda Ta’amu and RB Chris Rainey should have played out one of three ways: Both players permanently released; both players remained Steelers; Ta’amu permanently released with Rainey remaining. The Steelers front office baffled everyone by coming up with a 4th way.
Alameda Ta’amu was arrested after a drunken rampage through the streets of Pittsburgh during the season. Ta’amu was sentenced after pleading guilty to 3 counts of recklessly endangering another person, resisting arrest and drunken driving. He also was ordered to pay nearly $11,000 in damages that he caused. County prosecutors withdrew felony charges of aggravated assault with a vehicle. Ultimately and for some unbelievably, Ta’amu remained a Steeler.
Shortly after the season ended Chris Rainey was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of simple battery following an argument over a cell phone with his girlfriend where he was alleged to have “slapped” her. Rainey was cut from the Steelers almost immediately. His girlfriend did not follow the Steelers lead as she was the leading advocate for the charges against Rainey to be dropped. Rainey later pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, was ordered to pay a $200 fine and imposed court costs of about $300 and is still with his girlfriend according to the latest reports. Disorderly conduct is the lowest form of a misdemeanor one can be charged with. The two incidents don’t compare.