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Checkdown Audible: Michael Vick situation polarizing for Steelers fans, but why argue?

Checkdown Audible

If you haven’t heard – the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed Michael Vick.  Yes, former football superstar fallen from grace due to dog fighting reformed felon and redeemed Vick.   Although Vick may never see the field as a Steelers quarterback, the fact that he was even signed to the roster has Steelers Nation up in arms.  The argument has run from open petition to questions about the level of judgment Steelers fans have a right to offer up.  What that the situation proves is that Vick has caused a polarized response from the Rooneys’ fanbase, often considered one of the largest and strongest in the NFL, but why argue?

There is a long list of reasons why you may not like Michael Vick as a person.  His crimes, though paid for, were considered especially heinous by many due to the fact that he was abusive to innocents – dogs.  Yes, many can argue that women who were allegedly attacked by Steelers players in the past were also innocent.  Ray Rice would have received a similar reaction from fans (and did in many social media circles during the off-season) had the Rooney family decided to make him a part of their team.

Chris Mueller of KDKA radio (93.7 FM, Pittsburgh) went so far as to infer that fans are being hypocrites.  His statements on Tuesday ranged from showing Steelers fans as ones who either buy into anything the Rooney family approves to those who will cheer as long as a player with past trouble is a big contributor to the team’s success to those who believe they should get a final say on nearly every aspect of the roster.  If you don’t like Mueller’s proposition of hypocrisy, tell him, not me.  I disagree that fans should just be tagged with that generalization of hypocrite.  Some have shown that in their public statements, but many more are voicing their concerns in healthy ways.

The fact that the Steelers signed Vick does not have to be such a polarizing issue.  It doesn’t need to come down to Steelers fans ripping each other apart in front of the rest of the league proving what many of them already believe; that if you root for Pittsburgh you’re a pompous, opinionated jagoff or “yinzer” with steel shavings in your brain; who think that because your favorite team won four Lombardi trophies in the 1970s and three since then makes you entitled to any opinion, right or wrong.  Unfortunately, that is truly what a lot of fans of teams outside of Pittsburgh see Steeler Nation as.  A group of snobbish thugs who want things their way or no way.

I don’t agree.  As a Steelers fan, I have been disappointed plenty of times by different players that have worn the black and gold.  That didn’t mean that I was being holier-than-thou. I just didn’t agree with the actions of the individual.

I thought it was wrong for James Harrison to strike a woman.  I disagreed with Maurkice Pouncey supporting Aaron Hernandez who was convicted of murder.  I got really riled up with Rashard Mendenhall took to Twitter to bad mouth players on his own team or make ridiculous statements.  I thought it was wrong for Ben Roethlisberger to get into a situation where questions even had to be brought up as to whether or not he was involved in crimes against women.  I was ticked off that Chris Rainey decided it was okay to strike a girl who took his cell phone.  I was disappointed in Hines Ward for getting a DUI.  I thought Plaxico Burress was just plain idiotic for taking a loaded gun into a nightclub and accidentally shooting himself.

If I continued, there would be a long list of players here.  Steelers fans who have followed the team for more than the last five years already know about these incidents and some that stretch as far back as the beginnings of the Steelers organization.

I don’t like Vick as a player for reasons that have nothing to do with his off-field issues.  First, Vick is two years younger than I am.  He’s a 35-year-old that I seriously hope never has to step on the field.  Based on his age alone, I don’t see him being more than a bandaid since Landry Jones has been such a disappointing backup and Bruce Gradkowski has to have surgery, period.  I am not sold on Gradkowski, either.  Second, although Vick has a decent arm, he has been a journeyman quarterback with a three-year span out of the league for his criminal activities.

Vick can still throw the ball.  He isn’t as nimble on his feet.  He has caused contention in locker rooms, but for the most part has kept his nose clean.  Sure, Vick has an attitude.  How many football players don’t have one?  In 2011, Vick had one of his best seasons in the league.  He threw 423 completions for 3,303 yards and 18 touchdowns.  Tell me truthfully, do you think Jones or Gradkowski can legitimately do the same?  I would love to see Charlie Batch come out of retirement and join ‘Big Ben’ again, but it isn’t happening.  When we get down to the nitty-gritty, I have to agree that Vick has the skill-set that the Steelers need as a backup.  He isn’t in Pittsburgh to win a congeniality award.

I won’t be buying a Vick jersey, count on it.  I think it is my right as a person to make a decision about my purchases.  Like it or not, the Rooney family are running a business.  The NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry.  My petitions are likely to fall on deaf ears or just incite fans of other teams to ramp up their hate-filled tirades.  That does not mean I have to run right out and buy a jersey that has the man’s last name on it.  Never going to happen.

Remember how appalled we all were by how the Kansas City Chiefs fans treated their team a few years back?  What a bunch of bums.  Throwing stuff on the field attempting to hurt their players?  Booing constantly.  Cussing?  Acting like a bunch of boobs?  Threatening the lives of individual players?

Unfortunately, nearly every NFL team has faced that kind of scrutiny from the fan base at some point or another in their history.  I am not sure it is excusable.

I certainly hope that Steeler Nation does not think one man on the roster warrants that kind of behavior.  Am I condemning any fan for not liking the Vick move?  No.  But I also don’t like hearing my Steelers fan friends giving ammunition to every hater out there that already thinks I am a jerk just because of the team I like to follow, love to watch and have since I was a kid.

Vick is signed.  It’s a done deal.  This does not have to define the team overall.  Arguing isn’t going to get the Rooneys to change their mind.  The Steelers have some issues with their team, and unfortunately, Vick isn’t the only one.

S. Dean is a lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan. The former owner of 'The Beam in Pittsburgh', Dean has worked in the sports media field for several years. S. Dean graduated with a degree in physical therapy and sports medicine, has a minor in journalism and is a Mt. Lebanon, PA, native. His favorite Steelers players (all-time) are Jerome Bettis, Lynn Swann and Joey Porter. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLHotTopix and Google Plus. To see his full bio, please visit the Meet Our Staff page.



  1. DaveB

    August 26, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Dr George , as usual we are in agreement . The Steelers brought alot of this on themselves by not developing capable backups , especially at a position as critical as quarterback . In the event that Ben would go down with an injury , even for just a couple games , Michael Vick is more than capable of coming in and running the offense . The Steelers did not have that ability with Landry Jones and they knew it . For all the fans screaming against this signing , you will be the same ones cheering when Vick throws his first touchdown pass or scrambles out of the pocket for a long gain . Bottom line , what he did is horrific and deplorable , but hes paid his debt to society and its time to move on . It was eight years ago and its time to turn the page .

  2. Megan Dodson

    August 27, 2015 at 12:23 am

    Unfortunately its apples and oranges to draw comparisons between the other questionable and outright bad actions by other Steeler players to Vick.

    1) aside from Plaxico as far as I’m aware, all the ones mentioned were already Steelers players. Steelers have thrown out others for bad off field behavior too. This time, they openly courted a guy with a particularly bad background. Mentioning Rice is a misdirection because he IS NOT and HAS NOT been courted by Steelers. And I’m far less concerned about non Steeler players because its the institution of the team for higher standards of character that elevate the team among the others.

    Which leads me to ..,
    2) of all the above, none are guilty of SYSTEMATIC BRUTALIZING of a living thing. Beyond the dogs that were executed by “creative” means, the fighting dogs were tortured to make them more vicious. And even worse, other dogs were used as bait. Intentionally used to be mauled and torn to death… Unlucky were the ones who survived to be used again. And again.

    VICK DID THAT. Though his final plea admission has him claiming he was not hands on for any of it, his co defendants AND witnesses unilaterally testified that he was hands on through all of it.

    THAT is what makes Vick night and day different from any of the above mentioned guys. His crimes much more grevious than an error in judgement. Something that time served will never really absolve nor prove that he has reformed or has remorse. Because it went on for years.

    Incidentally, documented incidents of him beating his girlfriend in VA supposedly though I’ve not followed up that particular aspect.

    And also very questionable is his father’s claims that Vick enjoyed amateur dog fighting as a kid. Rounding them up and setting them on cats. Holding fights in the garage. I don’t actually give that much credence because there’s no supporting evidence beyond his word and the contradictory words of a self admitted friend of Vick.

    In any case, regarding the actual black & gold player offenses listed above, they are (at least documented) one time or very brief transgressions where the argument of momentary bad choice but likely true remorse and authentic self reform are much more likely and believable and good arguments for as you said above, let the past be the past.

    Vick? No. Forget that he shouldn’t have been let back into the NFL. Steelers should not crawl into the gutter to associate with a man guilty of prolonged depraved indifference that ended only because he was finally caught… After SEVEN YEARS.

    If I could, I would post just a single picture of one of the surviving bait dogs at the time of the raid. It is barely recognizable as a living creature as its a bloody mass of tissue, raw edges, frankensteinan with long staples together seams that close together flaps of skin that don’t even match in fur coloration. The nose is half there. No lips to cover the teeth.

    The only thing that lets you know it still lives are the eyes gazing out at the camera.

    Just one dog of hundreds throughout the years.

    That’s what Vick represents and can never erase. SEVEN YEARS.

    That is how your otherwise good arguments simply do not apply to a guy guilty of his crimes.

  3. PistolPete

    August 27, 2015 at 1:17 am

    Megan, your argument may have held up if it were researched a little better. I don’t care how much you rant, a human being being abused is always going to be seen as more despicable than that of an animal. I love animals. The fact that Vick enjoyed seeing that level of violence is disturbing. To argue that because all of those players were already Steelers, come on. The Steelers were openly courting Ray Rice. Here is one piece of evidence:
    It can be verified. You are truly naive if you think the only despicable behavior is that against dogs. That being said, tell me one player at the quarterback position the Steelers could have signed that would have been able to step in should Roethlisberger go down. Name a free agent. Name a guy that is retired if you have to. The fact is, for the money and ability, Vick was the choice. Like it or not. If we did background checks on every professional athlete in football, there would be a lot of teams unable to put together a 53-man roster.

  4. JerseyStillers

    August 27, 2015 at 1:35 am

    This is football, not dog fighting. If you hate violence, I suggest you watch golf. Football is a brutalizing sport in itself. By watching it, you glorify gladiators bent on hurting guys in the wrong jersey whether you wanna admit it or not. You love it when a guy like Ray Lewis finally retires cause you hate him and the Ravens. You cheer when your favorite player hits an opponent so hard his helmet flies off. Get real. If you were so nonviolent you wouldn’t be interested in football. Do you protest circuses, zoos, farms, your local grocery store, furriers, taxidermists, hunters? Or do you buy that six dollar Heinz Field hotdog with relish or grill your steak in the parking lot as you tailgate? I understand being ripped over Vick being an asshole and pitting dogs against each other, but Megan, are you not showing just how big of a jerk you can be too? You just torched a writer over their opinion like it was dog crap on your shoe because to you it’s all about the dogs and how Vick is worse than any other person who has committed a crime. I think Mr. Dean pointed out that he isn’t a fan of Vick, if you bothered to read the article before you jumped on your high horse. I bet you can’t stand to hear all the references to Roethlisberger’s criminal investigations cause he wasn’t found guilty. Bet you call anyone who brings it up a hater. Well guess what baby. You’re a hater too. Just a different kind. Two wrongs never made a right and maybe Mueller was right about hippocrits. I say go join an animal rights group and put the same effort into actually doing something rather than lip servicing news sites. You’re trolling just for your own agenda and it is ugly.

  5. Megan Dodson

    August 27, 2015 at 4:47 am

    PistolPete, mea culpa, regarding Rice, I did not do any due diligence. I erroneously assumed the org wouldn’t have looked at him.

    As for violence against humans vs animals. Yes and no. The animals never have the option or choice to get away. Humans, well lets just say women because that’s primarily the target of the violent crimes. Even accounting for battered wife syndrome, there is at least the opening for the woman to walk away. Rice’s wife? That can not have been the only time its ever happened. I would suspect that BWS is in effect. But when the day comes she can break past it, she can escape. The dogs never had that chance.

    @Jersey… Nothing I said was any kind of personal attack on the author. I also didn’t directly attack what he wrote. I went through the examples he gave then outlined why Vick was different. Not comparable. Its humorous to me that you claim that I “attacked” him and make multiple personal attacks at me. PistolPete knows how to have proper discourse. You could learn something there.

    @PistolPete again, I do not follow the entire league. Which is why I ask “there was no other good alternatives?” In other places I’ve talked about this. That’s why I didn’t include anything to that effect but simply responded to author’s lumping Vick in with the others.

    Thank you for the link btw. I had no idea that Tomlin was openly seeking and thereby condoning violence against women by wanting to get guys like Rice on the team.
    “Coach Mike Tomlin states “You know it really helps to have a few convicts on the team. Guys that can really scare the piss outta ya. Nobody wants to go head to head with a crazy wife beating monster and that’s just why we wanted Ray on the team. Ain’t nobody gonna mess with him.”
    I would say back to Tomlin, how does beating up someone who is no physical match to you, show them as being anything less than a coward who compensates for own feelings of inadequacies by terrorizing those weaker. Understandably an odd thing when its a NFL player as one would not think that of him. But by large, violence against women (and animals) is driven by male insecurity. There’s all matter of ways a man may feel his power diminished in his life, emasculated. Being stuck in a bad job, bad boss, unable to find work, etc etc.

    Coming back to Tomlin’s quote… Its really bizarre. The idea behind his comments only works if you are talking about guys who attack other men of comparable physical stature.

    Which btw @Jersey, is why violence in football doesn’t bother me. These are grown men voluntarily maiming each other for sport. Boxing. MMA. All voluntary and equally matched.

    Beating up women, torturing dogs. That’s just pathetic and cowardly. Nothing admirable at all.

    The only thing Stiller said that was of any potential merit was a badly expressed sentiment that I put my money where my mouth is… volunteer with rescue.

    My answer? Why do you assume I haven’t? I simply didn’t see the need to mention it as having spent many years and hours doesn’t directly reflect on what I wanted to point out. Its only why I took the trouble. 😉

    I kind of wish now I hadn’t because ignorance is bliss… Now I know Tomlin thinks beating up women is a good sign of masculinity.

  6. OhioSteelers

    August 27, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Uh, Pete and everyone that article on Ray Rice was satire, not true. As for Steelers in trouble, Ernie Holmes once shot at cops. It caused controversy but life went on. Instead of name calling and finger pointing, why not just lay it out there and leave it? I don’t like Maurkice Pouncey. I think he had a poor attitude, liked to hook up with guys that wanted to run the streets instead of be responsible citizens. I don’t cheer for Pouncey. I support the team. Mike Vick is one individual. He can’t sully the entire team unless his teammates allow it. There is a lot of truth to what everyone has stated here. Yep, everyone. We all feel invested in the team, each have our own set of morals and values, want our opinions heard, are willing to share those opinions publicly, have unique causes that are important to us, etc. That is humanity. I disagree that women can always escape but an animal can’t because it goes beyond BWS in many cases. There are women and children in the sex slave industry that are treated worse than the dogs who died only because they are forced to stay alive. Dog fighting is disgusting and is not a sport. It is about a need to control and have power. Barring the ugliness of human deeds, we’re all flawed individuals with redeemable qualities. I am disappointed that the Rooney family chose to hire Mr. Vick, but let’s not lose sight of something about the Rooney family no Steelers fan likes to talk about. The Chief owned illegal gambling establishments. He was known to engage in open brawls on the Southside streets. The Rooney family still makes billions on horse racing, which many people see as cruel to horses. I am not sure if they are involved in dog racing. We see the Rooneys as the type of people who fought for the little guy, who never turned their back on a stranger that needed help. That is true as well. The hard truth is that the Rooney family are businesspeople. Professional sports are no longer about heroic characters out of mythology. In fact, the Steelers may have just brushed off one of the truly honorable men in the game today – Troy Polamalu – who was flawed, but had grace, faith and loyalty. In a sense, I feel the Steelers needed some press attention to take the eyes off of the ineptitude of their past few years of being ill-prepared, securing poor options to fill important roster positions, the fact that many inside the organization (like Joe Greene and Dick LeBeau) walked after being “dismissed” by leadership (ie. Rooneys). Something in Pittsburgh stinks and it’s not just the Allegheny. As fans, we can get past all of this is we just stop feeding into the crap and stop clawing at each other. If we are Steelers Nation, why are we acting like we’re in a blood feud? At the end of the day, I can walk away and decide that I don’t agree without hurting someone else in the process. Don’t buy their merchandise. Don’t join their official fan club. Bottom dollar being what it is – it may not hurt them or change their minds, but money is money in pro sports.

  7. Megan Dodson

    August 27, 2015 at 8:55 am

    THANK YOU for that Ohio, looks like even due diligence needs more due diligence. I should have checked out the site more myself. It was so unlike what I’ve seen from Tomlin, I should have questioned it more.

    I agree with you about Pouncey. He and his twin seem to love thug life. If the Dolphins are fine with it, no skin off my nose but I’ve wondered why the Rooneys kept Maurkice.

    I forget his name but wasn’t there a rookie a couple years back who had a hit & run while drunk but only struck parked cars. The next morning he turned himself in immediately and was already prepping to make reparations plus accept whatever judicial consequences he was given?

    I thought it showed immense character to own his very poor judgement and mistake to have gotten in a car that drunk. He also immediately acknowledged that he expected the Steelers to cut him because of it. But it was more important to do the right thing anyways.

    Steelers cut him about a week later if I recall correctly.

    That guy, I would have been fine with if they didn’t. I presume he’s never had a DUI since.

    And regarding allegations against Ben. Those made me very uncomfortable and I was waiting to hear what would come of it. Since charges were dropped. We will never know the truth. He was partying too hard. Quite possible they saw easy mark and he stupidly walked into it.

    What makes me feel more sure now that that is the case is the way Ben appeared to take it as a massive wake up call and turned his life around immediately. Since then, he’s been a model teammate again, got married, has kids. Appears devoted. No hint of scandal.

    I still don’t like that the taint is there because maybe it really did happen but it comes down to innocent until proven guilty (or at least explicitly documented like in Rice’s case)

    Have any of you actually watched the full elevator video of him? If not, do so. See if you feel as inclined to give him a pass still.

  8. Onceafanforlife

    January 17, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    There are some excellent comments here.
    First, I want to talk about the personality of animal abusers. From a psychological point of view – it isn’t just about the animals. It is about control and a lack of empathy. It has been proven over and over again through historical accounts and psych testing that those who commit such atrocities to animals also commit them to people. They are more likely to end up as serial killers.
    2. This argument that he did this to dogs not women is what is being used to make it okay. Except that according to the FBI dog fighting is linked to the sex slave trafficking g industry. I am not saying he did this, just that according to the FBI the two are linked.
    3. Is he really reformed. A) according to the psychology that type of behavior is not able to be few formed because of the lack of empathy needed to pursue it. B) I work and live in an area that has the highest concentration of sex slave trafficking g and dog fighting in the country and there are RUMORSfrom reliable sources that MV is still in the business, not as an owner, but as a consultant on how to run the dog fightingand business aspect of it.

    I have been disappointed with a ton of actions from several players as of late. I have also in the past heard Dan Rooney and former coach Bill Cowher state that if you are a player in the NFL you are automatically viewed as a role model and players need to act that way. Rooney stayed at a high school coaching clinic that if the player can not act that way, he should be cut. Sadly, this is not happening anymore.

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