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Steelers' Ta'amu arrested after police chase

| Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, 10:28 a.m.
Steelers nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu during mini camp on the South Side June 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Pittsburgh police arrested Steelers rookie Alameda Ta'amu early Sunday on charges of drunken driving, fleeing police and leaving the scene of an accident.

Ta'amu, 22, of Kent, Wash., was driving a sport utility vehicle that hit several cars on 14th Street on the South Side and was arrested about 2:30 a.m. after a chase and a scuffle in which an officer punched him twice, according to Zone 3 police.

Police said Jennifer Kosko, who was in one of the vehicles he struck, was injured. She was treated in UPMC Mercy, Uptown, and released.

Ta'amu was taken to Allegheny County Jail. Police said they saw a 2006 Lincoln Navigator going the wrong way on Fort Pitt Boulevard early Sunday. The driver then crossed the Smithfield Street Bridge and ran a red light while turning onto East Carson Street. Police said the vehicle traveled in the wrong lane for seven blocks to pass several cars at a time on East Carson.

The Navigator hit five parked vehicles, including the one with Kosko. Police said Ta'amu eventually got out of his vehicle and sprinted away, shedding his outer shirt.

Four officers caught him. When they tried to handcuff him, Ta'amu ripped one of his arms away and appeared to reach toward his waistband, police said. Fearing he might have a weapon, one officer hit Ta'amu twice in the face with a closed fist, police said.

Ta'amu relented, and officers used two sets of handcuffs to restrain him. He declined medical treatment, police said.

Police reported that he had a strong odor of alcohol as well as bloodshot and glassy eyes. Officers had to support him while walking, they said.

His blood alcohol level was 0.196 percent, more than twice the legal limit, police said.

Police asked for a wagon to transport Ta'amu because of his size, 6-feet-2 and 328 pounds.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert released this statement: “We are disappointed to hear about the situation regarding Alameda Ta'amu. We will gather more facts before providing any further comment.”

Kosko, 22, of Plum said she was sitting in her 2004 Saturn Ion eating pizza with a friend when the SUV hit her car. She said her jaw is still sore, and her friend has a bruised knee.

“I'm just sort of angry it happened, no matter who it was,” Kosko said. “It's awful that people are out drunk driving. My friends and I always make sure that we have a designated driver when we go out, so it really upsets me when someone goes out driving like that.”

Ta'amu, a nose tackle, was drafted this year in the fourth round from the University of Washington.

NFL scouting experts generally regarded him as the best nose tackle available in the draft. Ta'amu signed a four-year contract but has not played in any of the Steelers' five regular-season games this year. Longtime starter Casey Hampton and backup Steve McLendon are ahead of him on the depth chart.

Ta'amu is of Samoan descent, as is star safety Troy Polamalu, and Polamalu called him after the draft to welcome him to the team. Ta'amu's father is a retired pastor. Ta'amu is the father of a 3-year-old daughter.

About 1 a.m. Sunday, he posted on his Twitter (@medataamu74) account: “Let my love adorn you.” At 2 a.m., he posted a single word: “Weak.” Other recent postings included photos of his family attending church and praying together.

Staff writer Alan Robinson contributed to this report.Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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