Tim Benz: Art Rooney II’s take on Steelers ‘circus’ is pure ‘nonsense’
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II had his annual season-ending powwow with the team’s local print outlets Wednesday.
He made one comment that was so far from true, it couldn’t see the truth with the Hubble telescope.
Rooney was asked about the perception that his team is a circus and full of distractions.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s nonsense,” Rooney said.
I’m told he actually made that statement with a straight face and with no fingers crossed.
This year alone, the team’s helicopter-ridin’ star wide receiver skipped practices and meetings — twice — and was sent home for the season finale. He mocked the coach on Instagram with a former team icon, too.
In between those moments, Antonio Brown set a new land-speed record on McKnight Road, threatened a reporter, accused another of racism, threw another sideline tantrum and was in the news for throwing furniture off a balcony.
That team icon — James Harrison — has been on a crusade to undermine coach Mike Tomlin’s authority. Yet he was brought back to Heinz Field for the Super Bowl XLIII 10th anniversary celebration and was given a standing ovation on Rooney’s field.
Another team legend — Rocky Bleier — declared he was “done” with the team on Facebook, then recanted. The starting quarterback openly questioned the draft and criticized his receivers on a few occasions.
All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell seemingly welched on an assumed plan to play on a franchise tag, tied up $14.5 million in unpaid cap space and then spent the next few months intermittently mocking the club, laughing at his absence from it and flirting with other organizations.
Meanwhile, his teammates ripped the running back and raided his locker in front of the media.
On the field, the kicker who signed a five-year contract extension in the offseason had a season-long meltdown, and the team blamed an X-ray machine for a loss against the awful Oakland Raiders while gagging away a 7-2-1 record to miss the playoffs.
After that, valued offensive line coach Mike Munchak jumped ship for the same job in Denver, and outside linebackers coach Joey Porter was fired.
Following Porter’s dismissal, reports — from someone who works for the team’s website, radio network and flagship station — were that Porter “was trying to pit the defense against the offense in a divisive manner.”
That was just in 2018.
It’s to say nothing about the previous two years of national anthems fiascoes, Facebook Live streams, substance suspensions, social media gaffes, water-cooler tosses, poorly planned NBC interviews by the head coach, Porter’s arrest on the South Side, “Tequila Cowboy Todd” on the North Side or bad playoff predictions by Bell.
But, no, nothing to see here. Not a circus. What a preposterous insinuation by the ink-stained media!
If I were Bell, this is where I would insert the “laughing-out-loud” and “chin-scratching-monocle” emojis.
Remember the last time the real circus came through town and that camel got loose at PPG Paints Arena? That circus was less chaotic than Rooney’s Steelers.
Unfortunately, it appears that ringmaster had more control than Tomlin. Yet Rooney didn’t dismiss the idea of giving the head coach an extension.
Here’s the truth. The Steelers are becoming everything they used to loathe.
In Pittsburgh, we used to scoff at the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s and the Cincinnati Bengals of the last 15 years. Now that the likes of Bell, Porter, LeGarrette Blount and Martavis Bryant are gone (or all but gone), the police-and-drug element of that comparison no longer holds. But the dysfunction sure does.
We’ve spent decades poking fun at the Cleveland Browns. Now the teams tied each other this year and had similar records. The Steelers were left begging for their help to make the playoffs in Week 17.
We chuckled at the other team in the state when Terrell Owens got suspended by Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, then called a news conference so he could do shirtless sit-ups in his driveway on television.
Pittsburgh’s version of T.O. stands five inches shorter, wears black and gold and donned a fur coat on the sidelines of a potential playoff-deciding game. Otherwise, they have become indistinguishable.
For now, he’s still on Rooney’s payroll, too. Hopefully, not for long.
The owner sure made it sound as if he wants to get rid of Brown during his comments Wednesday.
“There’s not many signs out there that is going to happen,” Rooney said when asked whether Brown could remain on the team.
That would go a long way toward taking down the big top over “Barnum & Bailey on the Ohio.”
But if there is no circus, why would the Steelers need to trade A.B.?
If there’s no circus, you aren’t moving a clown. You’re just moving a really good receiver.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at email@example.com or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.