The Steelers confirmed yesterday that one of their employees sent an "inappropriate e-mail" message from the club office to "unintended recipients" last week, violating club and NFL policy.
ProFootballTalk.com, an online blog written by Mike Florio, first reported that Steelers line coach Larry Zierlein inadvertently forwarded an e-mail he received from Doug Whaley, the Steelers' pro personnel coordinator, to multiple high-level team employees and their secretaries throughout the NFL, including commissioner Roger Goodell.
Whaley, according to Florio, received the pornographic video from someone outside the Steelers' organization and forwarded it to others, including Zierlein, who then sent it along to more e-mail addresses than he apparently intended to last Friday.
The Steelers' statement, issued by spokesman Dave Lockett, did not identify the club employee in question but did acknowledge that "The sending of inappropriate e - mail messages is against club and league policy, and the sender has been warned about the policy violation. The sender has issued an apology to all of the recipients."
No other Steelers executive would speak on the matter, Lockett said, and coach Mike Tomlin was unavailable after the team's first voluntary workout of the spring yesterday.
Florio reported Zierlein tried to recall his naughty message several times and then followed with an apology to those to whom he mistakenly delivered it.
Zierlein, 61, was on the field coaching yesterday morning when the Steelers practiced, but the team denied requests to speak to him. Whaley, an Upper St. Clair native who played at Pitt, enters his 10th season in his job with the Steelers. He's attending Blesto Scouting Combine meetings in Florida and was unavailable.
Tomlin hired Zierlein Jan. 27. He has coached football 37 years, the last five in the NFL -- four as the offensive line coach with the Cleveland Browns and last season as the assistant line coach with the Buffalo Bills.
A club source told the Post-Gazette neither is likely to be disciplined over the matter by the team, and Lockett's statement seemed to confirm that.
Goodell's new personal conduct policy announced on April 10 states that "The standard of socially responsible conduct for NFL employees will be higher. Club and league employees will be held to a higher standard than players. Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL will be subject to discipline, even if not criminal in nature."
Although no crime was committed in the Steelers' e-mail caper, Goodell did say while announcing his new policy that "We hold ourselves to higher standards of responsible conduct because of what it means to be part of the National Football League. We have long had policies and programs designed to encourage responsible behavior, and this policy is a further step in ensuring that everyone who is part of the NFL meets that standard."
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.