I am not a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Not anymore. I used to be, almost exclusively because I grew up just north of Pittsburgh, in a land where the Steelers mean more than most things to many people—a place where some people say shit like they “bleed black and gold.”
In my hometown, Steelers fandom is passed down from generation to generation, and, like religion, many of us never really question why we like the Steelers, or why we dedicate hours of our lives on Sundays to the organization.
But a few years ago, I started to become more critical of the Steelers. And then, this year, just before the season started, I made a decision to simply quit cheering for the team. I’ve become a sports atheist when it comes to professional football, and the only reason I now watch on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays is for sheer entertainment (and, of course, to monitor my fantasy team).
And no, if they make it to the Super Bowl this season, I will not pull an about face and start blasting “Black and Yellow” incessantly or whatever superfans are doing these days. (By the way: that song blows.) A Super Bowl win would provide some nice funding for the infrastructure of my native city, but beyond that, I couldn’t care less.
Obviously, when I tell someone I’m not currently a Steelers fan, they want to know why.
Here are, I think, plenty of reasons, presented in no particular order:
Ben Roethlisberger is the worst. I won’t lie—the impetus for questioning my fandom was definitely off-the-field player behavior. Mostly that of Roethlisberger, who pulled several very stupid, arrogant moves before he even graduated to the level of evil it takes to be a (potential) serial rapist. It became genuinely difficult for me to root for such a blatant douchebag. People always say they don’t expect morality from the people they cheer for, the dudes who make millions to entertain us by throwing a ball around and running into other grown men, and that’s fine. You obviously don’t have to justify your reasons for digging what you dig. I just don’t like the guy, like how Tim Riggins simply despised Smash Williams in the first "Friday Night Lights" episodes, or how every rational human being hates lima beans. And as such, I don’t want to cheer for his success.
As you may have hypothesized, I made my final decision to throw in my Terrible Towel on or around the day the team signed Michael Vick to its staff of villains and morally bankrupt dickheads. But the decision didn’t come directly because they signed a guy who killed some dogs. It was more the straw that broke the camel’s back.
This was just another instance of the Steelers bringing a person with “character” problems, a bad reputation and/or a frightening criminal history onto the team. Which is fine if that’s how you’re going to roll, like if you’re the Oakland Raiders of yore, or the New England Patriots of today. The people who work for and run those franchises have never had the reputation of being good people, and they’ve accepted it. They tacitly acknowledge that football is not an honest or moral sport, and they don’t tout themselves as believing or behaving otherwise. The Steelers, however, pretend to care about morality but consistently contradict themselves. They talk about “The Steeler Way,” which I guess means being a bunch of hard-working, honest folks, or whatever. But they’re devious.
A few years back, James Harrison admitted to hitting his girlfriend. He told cops he broke through her bedroom door, slapped her in the face, and snapped her cell phone in half. They were arguing about whether to baptize Harrison’s son. Harrison remained with the team. A few days later, former Steeler Cedrick Wilson was immediately dropped by the team after punching his ex-girlfriend in a Mexican restaurant. When asked about the obvious difference in how the two men were dealt with, Rooney defended Harrison’s decision to smack a woman, saying, “What Jimmy Harrison was doing and how the incident occurred, what he was trying to do was really well worth it. He was doing something that was good, wanted to take his son to get baptized where he lived and things like that. She said she didn’t want to do it.” (Real shocker that an old Catholic used religion as his reasoning to defend a heinous act.)
In 2014, Rooney was part of the probe to see if the NFL had seen footage of the Ray Rice elevator video before reps from the organization claimed they had. Around this time, the Steelers signed the retired Harrison back to the team, something Rooney obviously approved and/or encouraged. A guy with that type of moral compass shouldn’t be heading an abuse probe.
The “classiest franchise in football” was ahead of the steroid curve. They’ve even occasionally been credited with popularizing PEDs in the NFL!
The Steelers’ head of security is nicknamed “The Cleaner,” works as a local police officer and has likely covered up some Steelers-related shit we don’t even know about.
If you’re gonna be shady, be shady. And if you want to hump a fridge, hump a fridge, you know? Just don’t lie about it.
The Steelers will run their team like it’s a business whenever it suits them—like when they want to hire a convicted felon to play backup quarterback. But then, in the name of loyalty, they will make terrible team management and money decisions. They kept Troy Polamalu around forever (probably because he seems like a genuinely good person, and they needed at least one of those on the payroll) and paid him out the ass, even though his time spent on the bench rivaled that of Derrick Rose.
The Steelers will make these decisions in the name of loyalty or whatever, but then they’ll do something like cut an injured Isaac Redman as a healthy release out of nowhere instead of putting him on injured reserve so that he could continue to receive a paycheck. One can only hope that upon hearing this, Polamalu helped Redman out by giving him some of that Head & Shoulders money.
Scott Muska is a writer and journalist based in Brooklyn, since all the Steelers fans ran him out of Pittsburgh. You should follow him on Twitter.