Steeler veterans address Mendenhall flap
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Steelers president Art Rooney II and coach Mike Tomlin may not have to say much to running back Rashard Mendenhall about his recent comments regarding Osama bin Laden and 9/11.
That is one of the benefits of having a veteran locker room, where younger players are expected to fall into line.
Several team leaders, including defensive captain James Farrior, said Mendenhall made a mistake by voicing inflammatory opinions on a social media website.
They said they expect Mendenhall, who turns 24 next month, to learn from the fallout of his Twitter posts. In one, Mendenhall questioned how planes flown into the World Trade Center could have brought down the Twin Towers "demolition style." Mendenhall since took down the post.
"He made some comments that he probably shouldn't have made at the sensitive time that it was," Farrior said. "You can voice your opinions, but you don't want to try to offend people that have strong feelings about that. You've got to think about everybody that's involved."
Because of the lockout, neither Rooney nor Tomlin have been allowed to contact Mendenhall since he ignited a firestorm following a military operation that killed bin Laden, the face of the 9/11 attacks.
The Steelers were quick to distance themselves from Mendenhall's comments, with Rooney saying in a prepared statement that it was "hard to even comprehend" what the team's first-round draft pick in 2008 meant. Champion dropped Mendenhall as an endorser, even though the sports apparel company recently re-signed him to a four-year contract.
Champion's decision came after Mendenhall tried to clarify the stance he had taken in a blog post in which he took issue with celebrations sparked by bin Laden's death and apologized to anyone he may have "unintentionally harmed."
"You live and you learn, and I hope everybody accepts his apology," said cornerback Ike Taylor, who is hoping to re-sign with the Steelers after the lockout. "Some mistakes are bigger than others, and I say this is a huge mistake. It's just something you can't say. He'll learn from it.
"As long as he doesn't keep making the same mistake we're all good with it."
Tomlin allows players to use websites such as Twitter and Facebook so long as they don't talk about team business. Many Steelers, including Farrior, Taylor and receiver Hines Ward, are active on one or both of the those sites.
When asked recently about Mendenhall, Ward told ESPN, "Everybody's entitled to their opinion. But that wasn't a good opinion."
"You've got to be careful," Ward said. "I'm not a big tweeter because sometimes your emotions get caught up, you speak your mind, and it's not always the best thing to say."