Pouncey puts himself, Steelers in bad light


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Did you hear the loud noise coming from the South Side June 26, the day New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was taken from his Massachusetts home in handcuffs to face a charge of execution-style murder?

It was a big sigh of relief from Steelers headquarters.

"Better the Patriots than us. Thank goodness we aren't involved in such a sad, terrible story."

Well, the Steelers are involved now, at least peripherally.

Team officials probably aren't in any mood to thank their star center, Maurkice Pouncey.

By now, you know the story. Pouncey and his twin brother, Mike, of the Miami Dolphins were photographed over the weekend wearing "Free Hernandez" hats. If you didn't see the pictures, google them. They are outrageous.

It's one thing for the Pounceys to be supportive of Hernandez, their friend and former teammate at the University of Florida, although few others are doing it. Everyone is running the other way. The Patriots released Hernandez within minutes of his arrest. Sponsors such as Cytosport and Puma dropped him. Patriots fans lined up to exchange his jersey for another player's. The Pro Football Hall of Fame took down his picture.

But the photographs of the Pounceys didn't exactly seem meant as a show of support. They are shown at their co-birthday party Saturday night in Miami, smiling, laughing, having a blast. They even posed with their hats. A man -- Odin Lloyd -- was savagely murdered. Another man -- Hernandez -- is looking at the possibility of life in prison. And the Pounceys find this to be a joke?

Let us count the people embarrassed by this:

Everyone in the NFL, although they often are being embarrassed by players these days and should be getting used to the shame. Those in the Steelers organization. The Pounceys, most of all.

Let us count those who should be offended:

Everyone.

It's hard to say if Dan Rooney, Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert or Mike Tomlin talked to Maurkice Pouncey after the photo spread went public. Someone surely did. That's why Pouncey issued the standard apology Monday via Twitter, saying he realized the "seriousness of the situation involving my former teammate" and didn't mean to offend anyone.

Pardon me if I doubt Pouncey's sincerity.

Pouncey has issued apologies before. Almost immediately after the Steelers' overtime playoff loss in Denver after the 2011 season in a game in which Pouncey didn't play because of an ankle injury, he took to Twitter to urge followers to buy a rapper's music. He ended up in a Twitter war with someone named Rick, who questioned his timing after such a tough defeat.

"I'm rich play for the steelers and have a awesome life!" Pouncey tweeted. "u wish u had my life!! your a loser Rick!"

The apology that followed also didn't seem very genuine.

Pouncey needs to forget the apologies and grow up.

Pouncey needs to realize there is more to being a professional than what he does on the field or during the season. When it comes to football, there might not be a better man in the Steelers locker room. "A relentless worker," Sean Kugler, the team's former offensive line coach, called him last season. "It's his energy. I've never seen him have a bad day. He's so positive. If I'm having a bad day, I spend five minutes with him and he brings me up."

Tomlin thought enough of Pouncey last season to make him the offensive captain when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was injured. Pouncey was 23, in just his third NFL season. Pouncey has continued to grow into that leadership role. He has taken ownership of and responsibility for the Steelers' young offensive line, which this season should include second-year pros David DeCastro, Mike Adams and Kelvin Beachum and third-year man Marcus Gilbert. Word is he is all over Gilbert, a talented tackle with a questionable work ethic. Pouncey won't let him slack.

But off-field behavior counts, too.

This has been a brutal offseason for the NFL. A different player has been arrested nearly every day. The league appears to be out of control. It has the look of a league of criminals. Hernandez just happens to be accused of the most heinous crime and has received the most notoriety.

But that doesn't excuse Pouncey's poor judgment. He represents the Steelers when he's in public. That's true not just when it suits him such as in his Twitter war with Rick. It's true all the time. The incident with the hats is a distraction the team doesn't need as it prepares for the start of training camp next week.

The Pounceys, of all people, should realize a murder investigation is nothing to joke about. They were with Hernandez at a Gainesville, Fla., club in 2007 not long before two people were shot. Hernandez is being investigated in those shootings. It's believed the Pounceys talked to authorities after the incident and could be questioned again, even though there is no indication they were involved in any criminal behavior.

The Pounceys won't be laughing if it comes to that. They probably should leave their hats at home.

Steelers - mobilehome - roncook

Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. First Published July 16, 2013 4:00 AM


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