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Steelers release Rainey after he is charged with battery in Florida

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 1:58 p.m.
Steelers running back Chris Rainey scores on a 57-yard touchdown pass against the Eagles during their preseason game Aug. 9, 2012, in Philadelphia. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
The Steelers Chris Rainey against the Eagles 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

The Steelers cut running back Chris Rainey on Thursday hours after police in Florida arrested and charged him with striking a woman authorities identified as his girlfriend, acting as swiftly as they did with receiver Cedrick Wilson five years ago.

The Steelers released Rainey, 24, about seven hours after he became involved in an altercation that began with the two arguing about Rainey's cell phone.

“Chris Rainey's actions this morning were extremely disappointing,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “Under the circumstances and due to this conduct, Chris will no longer be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Witnesses told Gainesville, Fla., police that Rainey slapped the woman's face, then chased her because she still had his cell phone. There were no apparent injuries. Rainey faces a hearing Friday on a battery charge.

The arrest was another setback for a 2012 Steelers draft class that can't seem to stay on the field because of injuries or stay out of jail off the field.

In October, fourth-round pick Alameda Ta'amu was arrested following a police chase on the South Side in which his SUV struck several vehicles and several officers were required to control him. He faces numerous charges. The nose tackle was later cut and signed to the practice squad, but he returned to the 53-man roster late in the season.

Asked about the Ta'amu incident Wednesday, team president Art Rooney II called it “very disappointing. He's a young guy that learned a hard lesson. Hopefully, he learned his lesson.”

The Steelers didn't wait to see if Rainey did.

His swift dismissal prompted former Steelers lineman Chris Hoke to post a Twitter message: “Coach (Mike) Tomlin always says ‘Don't be the guy.' We saw today what happens when u are ‘the guy.'”

Wilson also was that guy.

The Steelers cut him within hours after he was charged with punching his girlfriend at a suburban Pittsburgh restaurant in March 2008. The couple had been involved in a fight two months earlier in which police were called. Wilson never played in the NFL again.

At the time, Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said, “The Steelers do not condone violence of any kind, especially against women.” But later that day, Rooney added, “Each incident must be considered on a case-by-case basis” after it was pointed out linebacker James Harrison remained on the team despite being charged with striking his girlfriend.

In 2010, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for four games by the NFL after a college student accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Milledgeville, Ga., bar, although he wasn't charged.

When the Steelers chose Rainey in the fifth round last year, they gambled he wouldn't be involved in more off-field incidents.

While playing at Florida, Rainey was arrested in 2010 on a felony stalking charge resulting from a text message he sent to a woman that read “time to die.” Rainey performed community service and attended anger management classes after the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Last month, Rainey was issued a defiant trespass citation, a summary offense, after entering the Meadows Racetrack and Casino near Washington, Pa., on Dec. 2, the same day the Steelers beat the Ravens, 13-10, in Baltimore. According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, a person can draw such a citation if that person agrees to stay away from a gaming center but returns.

Rainey had somewhat of a disappointing season following a standout training camp in which he was praised repeatedly by Roethlisberger for his speed, elusiveness and versatility.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Rainey was the Steelers' primary kickoff returner, producing 1,035 yards and a 26.5 average on 39 returns. He also ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns, caught 14 passes for 60 yards and returned three punts.

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