It’s not too often that you see a player ejected from a game, and certainly not from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Truth be told, prior to Sunday’s game, I could not tell you off the top of my head when the last time is that they have had a player actually ejected from a game.
But guard Trai Turner managed to do just that just two games into his Steelers career, after he was caught spitting at an opponent against the Las Vegas Raiders. This followed a confrontation, and he maintains—and the team has his back—that a Raiders player spit on him before he responded in kind.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin was vocal and animated in defending his player when the officials opted to eject him, and only him, from the game, even though they issued penalties to both teams; it is not clear if they were able to identify which Raiders player was responsible for the infraction. Solomon Thomas was flagged, butt apparently for his response to Turner’s spitting, which was not directed at Thomas. Marquel Lee, who was released this past week, seemed to be the target of the loogie.
“With that situation, I’d just like to say thank you to Coach T, and thank you to my teammates just for having my back”, Turner said on Friday. “Everybody that saw the situation and was in the game knew what happened, knew what took place, and why it went the way that it did”.
“Looking back at the situation, maybe I could keep my cool better, hold my head”, he admits, “but when you’re presented with circumstances that you’re not familiar with, sometimes you go into foreign territory, and that’s just kind of what happened”.
This is certainly not the type of reputation that Turner has garnered over the course of his career, a decorated one that includes five trips to the Pro Bowl. And to his point, it’s hard to know how you would respond to somebody actually spitting on you unless you have it happen to yourself.
“I think everything that transpired this past week has shown me that I have more people that have my back than I thought”, he said, “and that most people could stand up and attest for who I am and who I am as a player, my character, and the man that I’ve been in this league for the past eight seasons”.
Presumably a number of teammates were on the field and saw what Turner claims to have happened. No doubt the team has video available that shows whatever may have transpired that led to him spitting himself. You can tell simply by how he reacted that it was a response to something else, rather than an unprovoked attack.