After a long illness, the Steelers died Sept. 8 in New England. Once a revered NFL organization, a “cancer” — first diagnosed in January 2017 after a 36-17 playoff loss at New England — ravaged the Steelers’ legacy. Not the loss, but the way they lost, caused this cancer. Symptoms? Young players not understanding what it really means to wear the Steelers uniform.
Hope was, players like James Harrison might come to training camp with the cure. He could not. In that 2017 season, Coach Mike Tomlin prescribed for the Steelers to remain in the locker room during the anthem, leaving teammate — and military veteran — Alejandro Villanueva to stand alone. Big Ben stated regret for not standing with Villanueva … a failure of leadership. The cancer metastasized.
Near season’s end, Harrison’s cancer went into remission. His cure? A Patriots uniform. Did Harrison witness the Patriots disrespect our national anthem? No. Did he experience acrimony in the Patriots’ locker room? No.
Last season, Rocky Bleier proposed a treatment, which worked briefly. But cancer is resistant — presenting this time as a fur coat-clad AB. The result? One of our most talented teams ever missed the playoffs. Art Rooney Sr. wasn’t available for consult. His early intervention would have been cut the tumor (Tomlin) and the metastases (Le’Veon Bell/AntonioBrown). As witnessed Sept. 8, the cancer was terminal.
Tomlin’s post-game comments made clear his own terminal illness: a “rinse and repeat” of last season’s post-lost-game comments. Tomlin’s memorial will likely be scheduled before season’s end.
Barrrett S. McGrath
The writer is a Pittsburgh native whose grandfather played football with Art Rooney Sr. at Duquesne University.