ShareThis Page

Steelers say 'family atmosphere' in locker room prevents bullying

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Troy Polamalu walks off the field after the Steelers lost 21-18 to the Raiders on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in Oakland, Calif.
Hall of Fame football player Tony Dorsett is interviewed Jan. 25, 2012, in his home in suburban Dallas.
Getty Images
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu looks on during a game against the Rams on Dec. 24, 2011, at Heinz Field.

One of Troy Polamalu's biggest worries after being drafted by the Steelers was not how quickly he could get on the field but whether he was going to be forced to get his hair cut as part of a rookie hazing ritual.

“I would've done it,” Polamalu admitted. “But thank God I wasn't drafted anywhere else but here.”

Polamalu's comments came on the heels of the suspension of Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito after allegations of over-the-top and ongoing bullying of teammate Jonathan Martin.

The Steelers vowed Wednesday that their locker-room mentality hasn't surpassed more than joking around or playful back-and-forth jabs.

“Around here, it's just more getting breakfast, getting lunch and things like that,” Ben Roethlisberger said.

Safety Ryan Clark said echoed that sentiment.

“I never heard anything of that extent or anything as vulgar or as foul as what's going on in Miami,” he said, “but there is some banter that goes back and forth between players who are friends.”

Polamalu said the reason there never have been any hazing rituals with the Steelers is because of the owner.

“I realize different teams and organizations have different personalities and different ways they run their team, but we have always had a family atmosphere here,” Polamalu said, “and that's started with the Rooneys and the foundation that they have laid for this organization.”

But that hasn't prevented incidents from occurring.

Albeit mild compared to what's going on in Miami, last year during training camp, rookie Alameda Ta'amu said he was told to take a late-night walk to a nearby store to purchase snacks for some of the defensive players.

Ta'amu walked almost 4 miles round-trip, and it ended up costing him two days of practice after he suffered a foot injury.

Former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch — a 15-year veteran who left the game this year — said he witnessed hazing and bullying during his time in the NFL.

Batch played four years for the Lions and the final 11 years for the Steelers.

“I've seen it,” said Batch, the national spokesman for the Dignity & Respect Campaign for Youth. “Somebody says bullying, but for years, it was called hazing. But it is the same exact thing. It is something that needs to change.”

Batch said all the locker rooms he has been around during his career were policed by the veteran players.

“You can have some fun, but you can do it in a respectful way,” Batch said. “When you talk about the seriousness of bullying, now you add the element of professional football players bullying, and this is a problem — a major problem that has been around for a very long time. Now, this takes it to another level.”

It's not uncommon to see Steelers coach Mike Tomlin or general manager Kevin Colbert patrolling the locker room after practice.

Clark said the atmosphere surrounding the circumstances under which Martin left the Dolphins need to be addressed with league guidelines. But Clark acknowledged that it could become a slippery slope when it comes to rookies paying their dues entering the league.

“I think some guidelines should be set in place,” Clark said. “No one should have to endure that in their workplace, whether they work for IBM or for the Miami Dolphins. I honestly wouldn't have had any problem with Jonathan Martin hitting Richie Incognito in the head with a weight, but that's illegal and he'd go to jail and he shouldn't do that.

“I think he handled it the right way by not being physical, by not causing more trouble by making a rash, emotional decision to retaliate with physical action.”

Polamalu added: “I would like to say that I would do the right thing if I witnessed it, and I have never been put in that situation. Thank God.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.