Steelers Beat Writer

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

The hits have just continued to come for the Steelers. And many of the shots continue to come from former players apparently trying to stay relevant.

The latest was former running back Rashard Mendenhall, who earlier this week went on a long-winded, winding series of Twitter posts that at one point called quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a racist.

Mendenhall later walked back that statement, saying he didn’t truly believe that. But it got the former first-round pick the 15 more minutes of fame he apparently wanted.

To that point, some of the current Steelers are fed up with the constant shots, whether they be from Rocky Bleier or James Harrison or long-forgotten players such as Mendenhall and Josh Harris.

Guard Ramon Foster put out a statement on Twitter a few days ago.

“Moving forward … any former player or affiliate of the Steelers who has an issue with anyone still in the locker room, please contact me or Maurkice Pouncey or anyone else you feel you can talk to,” Foster wrote. “Whoever you have an issue with, we will get you their number so you can address them. I PROMISE. These media takes might give y’all good traffic on your social media outlets but the guys still in that locker room, who y’all still know personally have to answer for those comments. Call them what you want, but call them personally and tell THEM. Defend who you want to defend but you don’t have to mention the team at all.

“Whether you have a ring or played for one year... ENOUGH... CHILL. Most players at one point in their life want to take their kids back to the place where they once played, don’t burn too many bridges. It’s a long history of brotherhood more than anything, BUSINESS is one thing but let’s keep it at a minimum for the guys who have to answer for these comments moving forward.”

Between continued shots from Antonio Brown, to the “hot takes” on what’s going on between the Steelers and Brown or whatever perceived issue the Steelers have this week, the players in the locker room are apparently fed up. They just want to move on.

We’ll see if that happens.

  • Gregory Polanco was sent to Class AAA Indianapolis from Class A Bradenton on Saturday to begin the next leg of his rehab stint. Polanco continues to work to come back from shoulder and knee injuries suffered last September.

The Pirates can’t get Polanco, who hit 23 homers and drove in 81 runs in 130 games in 2018, back in the lineup soon enough.

Friday night in Washington, D.C., the Pirates started Pablo Reyes in left field. As if that wasn’t bad enough. Reyes, a career .247 hitter who had one hit in 15 at-bats going into the game, batted fifth in the lineup.

That’s probably one more hit than somebody they pulled off the street would have had in those 15 at-bats. Probably.

  • While on the subject of guys who can’t hit, have you seen what the Orioles’ Chris Davis has done – or, perhaps more correctly, hasn’t done – this year?

After going 0-for-1 Friday night, Davis was hitless in his past 54 at-bats, the longest such streak in Major League Baseball history. He ended the streak with a hit in his first at-bat Saturday.

Earlier this week, he broke the record – if you want to call it that – for the longest such streak in major league history, which was held by the Dodgers’ Eugenio Velez at 46 at-bats.

The only saving grace for Davis was that there were just 6,600 people at Camden Yards to see him set the ignominious record. It was the smallest crowd in that stadium’s history.

The difference between Davis and Velez is that Davis was once a pretty good player. Velez had only 663 at-bats in a career that spanned from 2007 to 2011. Davis used to get around that many in a season when he was a 50-homer guy for the Orioles four or five years ago. In 2013, he batted .289 and hit a league-best 53 home runs.

But last season, his average dipped to .132, down from .215 in 2017.

Davis was hitless in 33 at-bats before his first hit Saturday. To get to his .215 average from a year ago, he’d have to get a hit in nine consecutive at-bats.

Davis will make $17 million this season. He’ll make $17 million per year through 2022 as part of a seven-year, $161-million contract the Orioles signed him to in 2016. Fully guaranteed.

That’s why fully guaranteed contracts just won’t work in the NFL. You just can’t fully guarantee a contract in a sport in which the average playing career is three years.

These long, costly deals seldom work out in any sport.

That will be a sticking point between the players and owners in the next round of CBA negotiations in the NFL. The current deal runs out after the 2020 season and the league and NFLPA announced last week they had begun talks on a new contract.

But the players want more money. And, more specifically, they want more guaranteed money. They want deals like the players in MLB, the NBA and NHL get. They want their contracts to be fully guaranteed.

But there’s little chance the owners will budge on that. Careers are just too short and can end quickly.

If the players were interested in signing shorter deals – two or three years at most – the owners might be willing to listen. But that’s not likely, either.

It’s also unlikely the players will strike. After all, the 53 players in any NFL locker room come from different ends of the cap spectrum.

What’s in the best interest of the 10 to 15 guys who are making big money isn’t in the best interest of the other 30 or so players on the roster. Those guys are just fighting to stay in the league. And getting them to agree to a strike and possibly give up a year of playing in a career that could last only a year or two isn’t in their best interest.

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

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