Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

Limiting impact of Hill a must for Steelers

Brook Ward / For the Observer-Reporter

Kanas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill is under investigation by the NFL for an incident with his family.

The star running back is gone. The star receiver is in trouble with the law. The top two pass rushers have been cut or traded. And the longtime leader of the defense at safety was released.

That might sound a little like what’s happening to the Steelers right now, but it is an accurate description of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Running back Kareem Hunt was cut midway through the season when video surfaced of him kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel. The Chiefs immediately released him. The Browns then signed Hunt soon after the season. Just this week, he was suspended for eight games.

In the past week, the Chiefs traded outside linebacker and franchise tagged player Dee Ford to San Francisco, and released fellow outside linebacker Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry. This happened after top corner, Steven Nelson, signed a free agent contract with the Steelers.

Finally, it was learned Friday star receiver Tyreek Hill, whom the team was considering making the league’s highest-paid receiver, was under investigation for breaking the arm of his young son. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Hill has had a run-in with the law. He fell to the fifth round of the 2015 draft following a domestic assault charge in 2014.

Do any of these things qualify as “drama.” Drama is in the eye of the beholder.

That hasn’t stopped some people from continuing to try to drum up drama with the Steelers, even though the two main culprits for such things, receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, are gone. Brown was officially traded to Oakland Wednesday, and Bell signed a free agent deal – for less money than the Steelers had offered him in 2018 – with the Jets.

That didn’t stop, an offshoot of Sports Illustrated, from trying to do a hit piece on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this week.

Robert Klemko found two – out of approximately 300 – former teammates of Roethlisberger who said he kept to himself in the locker room and only hung out with the offensive linemen. He didn’t invite a bunch of players over to his house.

At least that was the gist of what I got out of Klemko’s conversations with former running backs Josh Harris and Isaac Redman. We don’t know if Klemko contacted any other Roethlisberger teammates. And Redman, who actually said at the end of the “article” that he never saw Roethlisberger as a problem in the locker room, also claimed other statements he made in the story were taken out of context.

So, in essence, one guy, Harris, a little-used, third-string running back, was upset he wasn’t invited over to the Roethlisberger residence for a cookout.

Yeah, that sounds like the basis for a story and more drama.

  • There continues to be a narrative that somehow Brown and Bell wanted out of Pittsburgh because Roethlisberger is a big meanie.

Just because Brown painted things that way on his way out the door – and sold that narrative to his buddies in the national media – doesn’t make it true.

Does anyone seriously think Bell passed on $14.5 million last season because he didn’t like Roethlisberger?

Both of these situations were about the money, plain and simple.

  • If the Steelers’ locker room is so bad, why did Ramon Foster pass on a chance to go into free agency, where he could have made a bundle, to sign with the Steelers for what is surely less money?
  • Others have tried to point to Jesse James signing in Detroit and James saying he was, “glad to get away from the Steelers.”

Of course, James was glad to get away. His career earnings in four seasons in Pittsburgh were $3.6 million. He made twice that much just signing his name on the dotted line Wednesday with the $7.1-million signing bonus he got as part of a four-year, $22.6-million contract with the Lions. Who wouldn’t be glad about that?

The part of being glad to get out of Pittsburgh was only part of what James said. He also said he enjoyed his time playing in his hometown and it was a hard place to leave. Somehow, however, that didn’t make any headlines.

  • This is the age we live in, where everyone is looking for clickbait and many of the so-called reporters, who say they are covering a team are actually people sitting at home rewriting other people’s stories.
  • Let’s look at Bell’s deal with the Jets and compare it to what the Steelers were offering.

The Steelers’ final offer last July was $70 million over five years. He would have received $19.5 million in new cash and guarantees in the first season and another $13.5 million in the second year. By the end of the 2020 season, he would have pocketed $45 million, an average of $15 million per year and had two years remaining that would have paid him another $25 million.

The deal he signed with the Jets was for four years at $52.5 million. He’ll make $14.5 million in 2019 and $11.5 million in 2020. A full $25 million of his contract was guaranteed, with another $8 million in signing bonus, but that only matches the $33 million he would have gotten from the Steelers in the first two seasons.

And Bell is out the $14.5 million he would have been guaranteed by simply playing on the franchise tag with the Steelers last season. He’ll never make that money up.

He gambled on himself and he lost.

  • A lot of people are up in arms over the return the Steelers received for Brown from the Raiders, feeling the Steelers should have gotten more than third- and fifth-round picks, especially given what the Browns gave up to acquire Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants got first- and third-round picks and safety Jabrill Peppers.

But that ignores the fact Brown had worked very hard to make himself toxic, turns 31 this summer and was demanding a new contract. Beckham is 26 and there’s been no word about a new deal – yet.

Also, if the two picks the Raiders gave up were two selections earlier, they would have been in rounds 2 and 4. Realistically, if they had traded Brown to say, the Patriots, for their second- and fourth-round picks, would people have been happier?

Those two Patriots’ picks are 64th and 134th overall. Instead, the Steelers got the Raiders’ picks, which while technically a round later, are 66th and 141st.

  • Many of the same people saying a team that has a so-called diva wide receiver can’t win the Super Bowl are now propping up the Browns as the favorites to win the AFC North and perhaps win the Super Bowl because they acquired Beckham, a diva wide receiver.

The Browns are a better team – at least on paper – than they were at the end of last season, but the game isn’t played on paper. And the offseason is not over.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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