The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to blunder and trip over their own feet, erring in ways that are easily avoidable and creating issues that would not have otherwise existed. They manifest in numerous ways, two of which were evident on Monday night against the New York Giants.
Concerning the game itself, head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that he opted to dress only 47 players for the game when he was permitted to dress 48 because he felt that he lacked clarity on the rules, which had changed this offseason, though it does not appear that any other team had a similar issue.
Even more of an unforced error was their presentation heading into the season opener that they would be a unified group when it comes to addressing messages of opposition to racial injustice and as to how they would handle the national anthem.
In the days leading up to the game, the team’s website quoted multiple players saying that the team would be united. There was an article posted that specifically acknowledged that players voted on what they would wear on the backs of their helmets this year, and that it was chosen that they would wear Antwon Rose, Jr.’s name.
Had the Steelers simply never said anything, there would never have been a controversy after seeing left tackle Alejandro Villanueva wearing a different name on the back of his helmet. Had they never told Rose’s mother that every player would wear her son’s name, this would never have been a topic of conversation.
Yesterday, Vince Williams strongly implied in an Instagram post that such a formal vote never occurred. Today, Aditi Kinkhabwala wrote on Twitter that she was told by multiple players there was no vote in which every player was involved that concerned wearing the same message by everybody on their helmets, or specifically about Rose.
Moreover, Maurkice Pouncey posted a lengthy message on Instagram attempting to explain his own personal position on the matter, saying, “I was given limited information on the situation regarding Antwon, and I was unaware of the whole story surrounding his death and what transpired during the trial following the tragedy”, going on to say that he would be making his own decision from this point forward on what to wear on the back of his helmet.
“Moving forward, I will make my own decision…”
As Al Villanueva was (unjustly, IMO) attacked, I was told by multiple #Steelers that every player did not in fact vote on either a)all having the same name/tenet on their helmet or b)on highlighting Antwon Rose specifically. pic.twitter.com/h7xYrq58g4
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) September 17, 2020
Rose was shot and killed by former East Pittsburgh Police officer Michael Rosfeld in 2018, taking three bullets to his back, arm, and the side of his face after he and a fellow passenger fled an unlicensed taxi, which he had stopped because it fit the description of a vehicle that was involved in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier.
Rosfeld was fired and charged, but was ultimately acquitted a year later. He later attempted to sue, but his lawsuit was dismissed last month. Earlier this year, Zach Banner attended a rally in Rose’s memory and invited local Pittsburghers to attend.
The Steelers embarrassed themselves back in 2017 when they attempted the ‘unified message’ approach that was ill-advised and unfair from the beginning, not to mention unnecessary. They managed it again on Monday. All they simply had to do was to allow grown men to make their own decisions, which is ironic, given how Tomlin so often emphasizes the importance of treating his players like grown men who are responsible for themselves.
You don’t create unity by attempting to get people to compromise on matters of personal values; you merely create resentment. While Tomlin has suggested that their policy has always allowed individuals to make their own choices on this matter as long as it is done thoughtfully, they allowed players and their team’s website to promote the message that they would be united—and he apparently told Rose’s mother the same thing.