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. MichaelKReynolds.com

  • you wrote what SteelersNation is actually feeling. I think if Dan Rooney was still alive their butts would have been out there standing. When I heard Sunday morning they weren’t coming out for the anthem my heart sank & said,”it can’t be.. the Steelers wouldn’t..?” It was true. I took off my gear & didn’t watch a single down (I hear I didn’t miss anything) lol. I thought I wasn’t gonna watch my beloved team for a long while. But the Steelers came to their senses, they apologized & owned their mistake. Then they said they were going to be on the field for the anthem for now on. I smiled & said, “YESSS!” I knew they’d make it right. Just like anyone else that make a mistake, owns up to it, & apologizes for it deserves a 2nd chance. I forgive them. I didn’t cuss them, I didn’t send them hate mail or messages. I prayed for them & that fire chief that disgraced himself, his crew, & family. If I could tell Ben, Big Al, coach T that all is forgiven & I ride with the Steelers, I would. Let’s go to Baltimore & do it for Dan & go get #7 Here We Go

  • heath miller

    As al davis used to say in oakland ….JUST WIN BABY…… i dont give a flying F if they sit, kneel, stand or do cart wheels … JUST BEAT THE F-ing RAVENS…

  • Arnie White

    Couldn’t agree more, Mr. Reynolds. I would have added that, while sympathetic to the plight of those that are discriminated against, I find it despicable that anybody would dishonor our flag and our nation in the name of Michael Brown.

  • heath miller

    so would u rather have them stay in the locker room or have 10 guys kneel on the field in baltimore? and 40 stand ? … its a no win situation for them .. they stay in the locker room and steeler nation is pissed…. they show division 10 kneel 40 stand .. we have a ton of problems in this country .. probably the worst i heave EVER seen…we all cry about this while AMERICANS are dying in puerto rico because our president sees them as “a bad investment” … so investing in fellow americans lives are bad? and all we care about is if someone takes a F – ing knee…

  • AndreH

    I understand that people are up in arms about the anthem and rightfully so… but that’s a low blow.

  • RevDrEBuzz

    “Coach Mike Tomlin, Art Rooney II…be leaders. ”

    Ain’t gonna happen. Dan Rooney wouldn’t have allowed this to fester…

  • RevDrEBuzz

    Yes, Brown was trying to kill an LEO. This protest is anti-LEO and could even be seen as calling for the deaths of LEOs. I do wonder who communicated to the NFL players to all sit out, why was it coordinated? This wasn’t spontaneous.

  • Orange Is The New Whack

    Excuse me why I gag on your drivel. You don’t get it do you? Let me guess… you voted for the Orange POS currently in the White House?

    First of all this isn’t about a silly piece of cloth and a song. It is about democracy and the freedom it provides to protest an injustice. Second, our founding fathers didn’t put a lot of stock into the flag and had no intention of creating a worshiped symbol. They did not carry it into battle and they also thought it could be distraction from the things that really mattered to them and country. The flag was made because… well every country needs one to identify themselves, especially mariners. I think you need to go back and learn the wishes and intentions of the founding fathers.

    Our People don’t fight and die for a silly piece of cloth or song, they fought to protect our Constitution and Democracy that enables us to live free as we do. A big part of that freedom is the ability and responsibility to protest injustices. You and people like you don’t get to decide where they think it is appropriate to do so or not. Thar’s not democracy my friend. Maybe Patriotism has a more deeper meaning then you are capable of understanding?

    By the way do you and your family stand in your living rooms during the national anthem and salute the flag? Just curious.

  • Orange Is The New Whack

    Oh how poetic and ironic… Your name is Arnie White.

  • heath miller

    post of the year award right here !!!

  • PwndHearts

    This is a really impressively bad take…

  • Steeler-Drew

    Very well said and I respect that you put your thoughts from pen to paper with true conviction. What stands out the most is the lack of leadership in how it was handled. Rooney’s original stance was it was not the time or place. He also said they had certain expectations from the players as being a member of the team and if a player wanted to sway from those expectations then it would be addressed. This statement of course was prior to the presidents comments when everything changed. I’m sure Rooney would have rather had all of players stand then not participate and the end result could have not been worse. It seems the teams have come to happy medium with players standing and interlocking of arms. I think it’s something most can live myself included. If this was a viable option at the time with a few holdouts then Rooney and or Tomlin needed to step in. We all know how it turned out and heard the explanations on how AV ended up without his teammates behind him. But if they were right by his side in that tunnel it still would have suffered the raff from some of the fan base. And what made it worse from a leadership perspective was Tomlin’s decision to go out for the Anthem with three other coaches be his side. He talked about it being a unified decision as a team and became far from it. He then went on to make excuses as to why he was out there was his team was in the locker room. Basically saying he needed more time for the administrative duties when I’m sure he had plenty of time to iron those out prior to the game. Nobody was buying what he was selling even his staunch supporters. So in the end it appeared to be a total lack of leadership from the top. I’m hoping when the time comes for the Anthem tomorrow they settle for the “happy medium”.

  • Orange Is The New Whack

    Their is no proof that Brown was trying to kill that cop. None zip nada. The cop was a pathetic coward who should not have been a cop. There are way to many thugs and cowards in law enforcement who are either afraid of their own shadow or have no value for human life. Police training is an oxymoron. And, the good cops still stay silent and protect the bad cops, so what does that say about policing in this country? We have very big corruption problem that needs solving.

  • Chad H

    You both show why the left is lost and has no sense of reality.

  • PwndHearts

    …actually i might go with offensively bad?

  • PwndHearts

    Why am i not surprised to find out that the Author’s genre of note is “Religious Historical Fiction.” Ugh…

  • PwndHearts

    How the hell did this thinly veiled piece of propaganda masquerading as a “healing” piece even make it on the site at all???

  • copanut

    Wish I could like this 10,000 times, particularly the third paragraph which is dead on.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Michael has been a contributor here for four years and has always been given latitude to express himself, with the understanding that he is representing his own personal views and not necessarily the ‘collective view’ of the site, if there is such a thing.

  • Orange Is The New Whack

    Well let me educate you on reality because people like you on the right really seem to be very low information type people. The Left is the only thing standing up against this country becoming a polluted, racist, fascist, corporate run and corrupted quagmire. You elected an insane reality TV star that is an admitted sexual predator, con man, racist and certainly has his sights on turning our country into a monarchy. You wanted someone that talked just like you, right? Well us informed and smart people don’t want someone that talks like you to be in the most important position on the planet. We prefer to actually have a smart, sane and moral person in that position. Now that is reality my friend.

  • copanut

    “you wrote what SteelersNation is actually feeling.”

    I don’t think any one of us is the spokesperson for Steelers Nation.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I understand that there are strong sentiments involved here, but I will ask that everybody try to remain civil to one another in this discussion before things start to escalate. This is a general comment that applies to everybody.

  • Chad H

    Informed by your bias lying media right.
    Because you know everything and the right side is always wrong. Let me clue you in on a simple fact from your long winded post. If you are not in the presence of the flag you don’t have to stand. So standing in your living room is not required.

  • copanut

    I wasn’t aware that the Constitution had a section that requires people to stand for the flag. Did Madison write that, or was it Hamilton or Jefferson?

    I’ll keep that rule in mind the next time someone walks by with a flag embroidered on their shorts.

  • heath miller

    lol of course it is…waste of space…worst article ever on SD

  • PwndHearts

    So it’s clearly labeled as an opinion piece? I don’t expect the site to be “single minded” on anything, but this is clearly a one sided write up that totally ignores AV’s post game statements to push the writer’s own agenda.

    “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.”

    C’mon… I’m not trying to be a jerk, but this is just jingoism and rhetoric.

  • Orange Is The New Whack

    Civil? Matthew, you mean like the highly offensive and slanted editorial that was passed of as a Steelers article by Michael Reynolds and this site?

  • SteelersDepot

    Comment section for this post is closing soon. State your opinion nicely and move on.

  • Kevin Reich

    Thank you CNN

  • Jaybird

    I know where this whole thread will wind up going: left vs right, liberal vs convservative , and lots of name calling. Just remember this – your fellow Americans are not the enemy. Not at all. We all want the same things – good jobs, safe streets, and good schools for our kids to name a few. The Left and Right just have different views on how to obtain those things.
    Reserve your anger and your contempt for our real enemies- such as the Russians, the North Koreans, Radical Islam and the Baltimore Ravens.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think you know what I meant. My goal is to keep order among commenters, and I think it’s reasonable to expect that adults can discuss things while limiting the number of ad hominems. I’m not accusing you of doing so, but I just wanted to nip things in the bud.

  • PwndHearts

    I understand wanting to shut down the comments section before things get ugly, but how does an article like this go up without everyone expecting a polarized reaction.

  • PwndHearts

    understand wanting to shut down the comments section before things get ugly, but how does an article like this go up without everyone expecting a polarized reaction.

  • Jaybird

    Matt why have an article like this ? We all knew where it would go? You know I take your side most of the time. And I usually like Reynolds- he knows how to get us riled up but in a non offensive way. But cmon- enough of this stupid political crap. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a editorial / political opinion type article here before.

  • SteelersDepot

    I knew it would and both MM and I chatted beforehand and knew it would likely go in an unmanageable direction. We both want to watch football today and enjoy the last afternoon will have free until next Saturday.

  • Orange Is The New Whack

    You are welcome Fox News

  • Black Gold

    I agree wholeheartedly Whack. Wrapping oneself in symbolism because it suits one’s ideological worldview is no legitimate substitute for having the courage to look objectively at reality.

  • PwndHearts

    I understand that to some extent, but that is not at all what the article ended up communicating. It firmly came down on one side of the issue and then tacked on a “So let’s all move on…” to it. I’m not trying to be difficult and I’m sorry if it’s coming across as that, just sincerely confused.

  • Orange Is The New Whack

    Yep and I know what you mean. Well hey Matt I have a great idea! How about nipping articles like this in the bud?

  • RickM

    It does seem an unusual article. The key thoughts seem to be ‘I don’t like racism’; ‘athletes have earned the right to protest’; and ‘the protest has to be on my terms’. The thoughts are not reconcilable

  • SteelersDepot

    Ok, you’ve said your peace. I’ve never censored him and I didn’t today. He has contributed to the site for years. Several have stated their replies and now comments will close.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I agree with part of what you’re saying.

    It was a no win situation for the Steelers. Somebody was going to be offended/disappointed either way. If Rooney forces the players to stand, the liberals are outraged. If Rooney lets the players kneel, the conservatives are outraged. If he keeps his players in the locker room, both sides will be outraged that he didn’t side with their poison.

    Initially, I thought the idea to “abstain” from taking a position was brilliant. But as I saw the reaction of Steeler nation I realized I was wrong. Sometimes in life you can’t be Switzerland. You have to take a stand. And some people are going to be offended by that stand.

    I have literally read hundreds of posts on this issue. And the only conclusion I have come to is that all this division and hatred is not helping our country’s problems. The black players kneeling during the anthem is not helping. Trump throwing out insults is not helping.

  • Chad H

    Dude you need to chill out. You are out of control. Have a few beers and call it a night.

  • PwndHearts

    I don’t mean for this to be a personal attack on the author and i’m not trying to troll or stir up trouble.

  • copanut

    Rather remarkable, the skill the POTUS has to divide people, even the normally united Steelers Nation. He is the master manipulator. Perhaps the only thing at which he is skilled.

  • SteelersDepot

    Closed.