Steelers Spin: Healing A Wounded Steelers Nation

Somewhere amidst the rubble and smoke of a shattered Steelers Nation is a disappointing football loss against the lowly Chicago Bears by a score of 17-23.

As my wife was watching the endless imagery of kneeling players and hearing the relentless chattering of political talking heads, she uttered a statement probably echoed by most football fans: “I am so over this story.”

Sadly, although the pride of Pittsburgh will be facing their bitter rivals in the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, the greater story will be what occurs before the game clock begins to roll and whether the actions of the players and coaches will properly signal the beginning of healing for Steelers Nation.

My lifelong joy in regards to the National Football League in general, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in specific, is an escape from the realities of the seemingly endless churn of life’s gerbil wheel…an opportunity to vicariously participate in America’s great game alongside many millions of my adopted brothers and sisters who love the team as much as I do.

I don’t blame the young men who suit up on Sundays for at least temporarily shattering this illusion, but rather the societal push to rob us from these sanctuaries from today’s bitter storms.

Can’t we just get back to football? Can’t we just be Steelers Nation again?

We’re going to try. But, with apologies to those who wish it “would all just go away” here is your Spin.

A Great American Tradition
We are a nation birthed with the groans of protest and discontent. It’s a rebellion against oppression that made us who we are. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s was a continuation of American greatness in that heroes stood up against powerful institutions to begin righting the wrongs of a nation. To anyone who denies that racism isn’t alive and breeding in societal Petri dishes throughout our country has their heads buried deeply in the numbing sands of ignorance. The Spin despises racism. You can search through my archives of articles here on Steelers Depot to find a column titled, “How To Get Deported From Steelers Nation” to see what I think when someone chooses the comments sections of these articles to express their racism. Through hard work and dedication, these players in the NFL have earned their lofty platforms to express their heartfelt beliefs. They should be applauded for making their opinions heard.

Friendly Fire
Yet, choosing to air their disputes on the company’s dime, and squarely in the face of those who are barely scrapping up enough money to come out and support them was the first offense. The greatest violation by far is being intolerant of the profound significance of the flag and our anthem to those who love our country, and to those who served us all in the most significant fashion. My father served two tours in an unpopular war as a United States Marine. As a five-year-old, I can recall protesters hunting down our home address and throwing a brick through our front window at night. For days after, my Dad, who backed down to no one, slept in the car with a baseball bat waiting for them to return, which thankfully they didn’t. Those nights were nothing compared to those he experienced in his duties in Recon where he endured dark days wading through leach infested waters, with his friends falling beside him as bullets whistled above his head. During those times, thoughts of his family back home, and the flag and nation he was defending was all he had to carry him through those difficult times. I love football. I love the Steelers players. But count me among those who found it revolting the players chose this particular method (of so many available) to issue their protests.

The Greatest Crime
For many Steelers fans, there was only one winner in all of this, and that was Alejandro Villanueva for putting his brothers in arms above his brothers in…well a game where they chase an air-filled pigskin. The only problem with his press conference where he apologized for “throwing his teammates under the bus” was that Coach Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II didn’t grab the microphone from him immediately and say, “Son…you don’t have a thing to apologize for…this one is on us.” I found Rooney’s note to the fans to be offensive. First the highest leaders of the organization blamed the players, then Alejandro, and finally Steelers Nation for perceiving things incorrectly. No sir, our perceptions were spot on.

Mea Culpa
The blame for this debacle lies squarely at the top of the organization. Coach Mike Tomlin, Art Rooney II…be leaders. Take responsibility for this. Apologize to Alejandro for putting him in an impossible situation and then leaving him out to drift in the wind afterwards. Apologize to Steelers Nation without flowery language to try to perfume the stench. And then…hopefully, we can all move on.

Limping Back To Football
I’m not sure there is much to analyze about the Bears loss. The Steelers got run over by a running back with a painful AC joint strain. This was the same Bears team that got properly demoralized by the Green Bay Packers just a few days later. This was a bad Bears team. They were who we thought they were. But this is also a Steelers team that lacks leadership, team integrity and on last Sunday, the will to win.

The Pivotal Moment?
Perhaps Alejandro Villanueva’s courageous stand is the beginning of this team developing championship level character. Maybe they found their reluctant leader in the decorated Army Ranger. Perhaps the team starts playing the kid more that battled back from cancer, rather than the player that is battling for a $17 million dollar paycheck. Maybe they should start the heart and soul of the defense in LB James Harrison, rather than disrespecting him on the bench. Just maybe, it’s time for coaching decisions to lean more toward heart, instead of merely capability. This is a team with tremendous talent and highly reasonable Super Bowl expectations. Let’s hope the “Calamity in Chicago” is what it takes to bring them together.

Ravens To The Rescue
Has there ever been a better time to play the Baltimore Ravens? Are you kidding me? Talk about going “all in” on the season. With all that’s being going on, a setback by the Steelers to their hated rivals could send this team in a tailspin that could be difficult to recover from and could foreshadow a season of disappointment. Especially, if it’s an embarrassing loss like the team has suffered to Baltimore in years past. But, if the Steelers do what they should, and rise to the occasion and smack down the Ravens, this could be salve to the wounds that are sorely needed. Despite being disappointed in the Steelers this week, I’ll be watching. I hope you will as well.

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds
Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series.