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Despite legal woes, rookie Ta'amu to remain with Steelers

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 5:26 p.m.
Steelers rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu says October arrest 'one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made in my life.' Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Third-round pick Alameda Ta'amu apparently is still part of the Steelers' plans, as the team decided against cutting him Wednesday. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Despite facing 15 criminal charges, including a series of felonies ranging from fleeing police to aggravated assault, rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu will remain with the Steelers.

The team activated Ta'amu from the suspended list Monday but had a roster exemption until 4 p.m. Wednesday. The organization announced the release of backup safety Damon Cromartie-Smith, indicating their intention to keep Ta'amu.

Ta'amu said he feared the Steelers would cut him.

“Yeah, yeah, I was scared,” Ta'amu said Wednesday during his first public comments since the arrest. “But it is good to know that everybody here is behind me, and they know it was a mistake. I am doing everything the coaches and the Rooneys want me to do.”

Ta'amu said he has been in contact with the NFL via telephone but did not elaborate.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is looking into the incident.

“We look into any law-enforcement matter involving NFL personnel,” Aiello said.

As for Ta'amu, he was apologetic.

“It was a big mistake, one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made in my life,” Ta'amu said. “I let a lot of people down — my family, the fans and especially my teammates. I was embarrassed to call my family. It was just out of my character to do something like that. I promise it will never happen again.”

Ta'amu, 22, 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. Oct. 14 after a chase and scuffle in which an officer punched him twice, according to Zone 3 police.

According to the police report, Ta'amu faces felony charges of fleeing police, aggravated assault while driving drunk and three counts of aggravated assault for nearly running down three police officers.

Ta'amu also was charged with 10 misdemeanors, including resisting arrest, attempting escape, drunken driving and failure to obey traffic laws. His blood-alcohol level was 0.196 percent, more than twice the legal limit, police said. Ta'amu posted $25,000 bail and was released.

Ta'amu said his preliminary hearing that was originally scheduled for Oct. 23 was postponed.

Ta'amu said he couldn't get into specifics about that night.

“My lawyer told me I am really not allowed to talk about that right now,” Ta'amu said. “I just want to let you guys know that I am trying my best to keep moving forward and get better. It's a life lesson.”

It wasn't the first alcohol-related arrest for Ta'amu. Court records show he was charged with driving under the influence in October 2011 for an incident that occurred Dec. 12, 2009, when Ta'amu was playing for the University of Washington. He later pleaded guilty to negligent driving. He was sentenced to one day in a community-work program and ordered to pay a $350 fine.

Ta'amu was suspended two weeks without pay by the Steelers, which cost him $45,882 of his $390,000 first-year salary. Ta'amu said he spent the time off trying to address his problems.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not say whether the organization will revisit Ta'amu's situation once the legal process plays out.

“They're really separate issues,” Tomlin said. “He's got in-house issues. Of course, he as legal issues and he has National Football League issues. Such is life.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com.

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