Alameda Ta'amu stood before the court in a dark suit, his hands folded in front of him, and spoke in a soft voice.
On Thursday, the Steelers defensive lineman admitted to driving with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and to endangering the safety of police officers and patrons frequenting the South Side about 2:30 a.m. Oct. 14.
"I know what I've done is wrong," he said. "I'd do anything to make it right. What I did affected my whole family. I've got to keep learning from my mistakes. So far, I think I've done a good job of staying away [from alcohol]."
The then-rookie nose tackle was arrested last year after a drunken chase with Pittsburgh police along East Carson Street.
Originally, he was charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault, but those counts were withdrawn by the prosecution. Instead, Mr. Ta'amu pleaded guilty to three counts of reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and driving under the influence.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani sentenced him to 18 months probation, to serve four days in a DUI housing program and perform 150 hours of community service.
According to police, Mr. Ta'amu was spotted by an off-duty officer driving the wrong way on Fort Pitt Boulevard and then over the Smithfield Bridge early that morning.
Officers on foot on the South Side tried to stop him with guns drawn as he drove erratically on East Carson Street, and were nearly struck.
Mr. Ta'amu's Lincoln Navigator struck four parked cars, causing more than $22,000 damage. A woman inside one of those cars was injured.
After his vehicle came to a stop, Mr. Ta'amu jumped out and ran. Officers finally stopped him at Uxor Way. It took four of them to restrain the 6-foot-3, 348-pound man.
His blood-alcohol level was 0.196.
Judge Mariani found Mr. Ta'amu not guilty of fleeing and eluding because the off-duty officer chasing him on East Carson Street was in an unmarked car. Mr. Ta'amu said he didn't know it was an officer following him. Instead, he thought it was a driver who was angry because of a turn he'd made.
When the judge asked why the man didn't later pull over when he saw uniformed officers with their guns drawn, he answered: "I was a rookie, I was scared. I was a Steeler. I was drunk driving," he said. "I wrecked my car and I panicked.
"Everything happened so fast."
Judge Mariani chastised the defendant for his behavior, calling it "outrageously dangerous."
But, he continued, "You shouldn't be treated any more harshly that any other first-time DUI offender."
The judge then added that Mr. Ta'amu shouldn't be treated any better because he's a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Judge Mariani suggested Mr. Ta'amu perform his community service with the Best of the Batch Foundation, run by Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch.
Two days after the incident, Mr. Del Greco said, his client signed up for the NFL's substance abuse program, and he undergoes random drug and alcohol screenings two to three times per week.
Mr. Ta'amu was cut by the team shortly after the incident but re-signed before the last game of the year. He hopes to make the team out of training camp in the summer.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team was disappointed with Mr. Ta'amu's actions and disciplined him accordingly at the time.
"We take these types of behavior very seriously, and Alameda is well aware of the standards he has to maintain to remain a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization."
Mr. Ta'amu had been arrested once before, in December 2009, for DUI while attending the University of Washington but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of negligent driving.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620. First Published April 4, 2013 3:15 PM