Are Forces Again Propelling Steelers?

How will the latest labor snafu affect the Steelers? Mike Prisuta explains why it could bond them further.

The Steelers remain a team that's either highly motivated or highly distracted, or maybe a little of both.

That was clearly the case a season ago when they perceived a conspiracy perpetrated by the NFL against their defense -- James Harrison was the poster boy -- because of hits the Steelers maintained were just too hard for the NFL's liking. The fuel their outrage added to the fire helped drive the Steelers all the way to the Super Bowl.

Don't look now but here we go again.

First there was Harrison reopening old wounds in Men's Journal.

And now we have a salvo by Ryan Clark that shattered the tranquility of a sleepy St. Vincent campus Wednesday.

Ratification of the CBA by the NFL players, Clark insisted, wasn't necessarily a slam dunk, at least not as far as the Steelers were concerned.

Clark maintained one of the major issues continues to be representation for the players as it relates to the enforcement of discipline and the handing out of fines for hits that run afoul of the NFL's player safety initiative and acts in violation of the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy.

Minus more collective bargaining and compromise, Clark said, the CBA might not be ratified and all of those players who have been waiting for Thursday to be eligible to practice might not be participating after all.

In stating his case, Clark left no doubt as to whom the villain in all of this labor unrest remains.

"Roger Goodell gets to make these decisions whenever he wants, how he wants and the way he wants, and really not have to answer to anyone," Clark said.

He was just getting started.

"He wants to do it his way, I think, the way that he has taken over most of this game," Clark said. "How often did you hear Paul Tagliabue's name throughout the season? Hardly ever, other than it being on the ball. I think (Goodell) has decided to make himself a major part of this game.

"I don't know if he had some type of high school dreams, or Pop Warner dreams of being an NFL football player, but he has made himself the NFL. He is the most infamous commissioner in sports right now. Maybe that's what he wanted to be.

"We know he doesn't work for us. He doesn't work with us. We want somebody on that (disciplinary process) that does."

Clark wasn't as vulgar or sophomoric in his critique of Goodell as Harrison had been in Men's Journal, but the venom was just as apparent.

Added Brett Keisel: "Right now, we have a bullseye on our chest, especially James, so we'd obviously like some more people to assess it before fines are handed out."

Keisel said the Steelers wouldn't approve the CBA useless that situation changed.

Charlie Batch, like Clark an NFLPA insider, was eager to get from the practice field to his room on Wednesday afternoon to check his cell phone and see what if any progress had been made.

Art Rooney II was on his cell phone as practice concluded, and left the field unavailable for comment.

For what it's worth the Steelers and coach Mike Tomlin were still expecting everyone who was supposed to become eligible to participate by Thursday to take part in an actual practice.

Stay tuned.

The possibility existed as of Wednesday afternoon that the Steelers could offer up a collective "thumbs down" and the rest of the rank and file could still ratify the new agreement.

Or, the rest of the league could line up in agreement with the Steelers and players such as Ike Taylor, Willie Colon, Jonathan Scott and Doug Legursky would remain in NFL limbo.

In either instance, the Steelers' rage as it relates to Goodell should be easy to maintain.

Or, they might actually lead a successful revolution of personal conduct enforcement , one that achieves a voice in the disciplining of themselves, which is seemingly what the Steelers want most of all short of seventh Lombardi Trophy.

This, too, would fuel their fire through a newfound sense of empowerment. The only question is whether they'll have their starting offensive tackles available by the time it's time to fire up against Baltimore.


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