Bouchette on the Steelers: Beware! The commissioner is watching

Last week's action against Santonio Holmes may have been as much preemptive as disciplinary

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He might not admit to it, but one of the reasons Mike Tomlin fined Santonio Holmes and deactivated him for last Sunday's game is the NFL's new policy that teams can be punished when their players go awry. Tomlin and the Steelers will say it was done because it was the right thing to do, and that indeed may be in the forefront of their thinking on the matter.

It also sends a message to Holmes' teammates that if a player such as Holmes can be suspended for such a misdeed, it can happen to any of them.

The NFL Players Association almost has to grieve the fine and deactivation because Holmes has not been convicted of a crime. If he is not, why the rush to judgment on the part of Tomlin and the Steelers?

My opinion: The Steelers were in their rights to make him inactive for the game, if for no other reason than they can claim he would have been a distraction, whether guilty or innocent, and that could detract from the game.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin benched Plaxico Burress for the first quarter just for missing a Saturday medical treatment. When Burress did play last Sunday, he had little impact.

The fine Holmes received was, we hear, $10,000. That's nominal, which means it was unnecessary. If the transgression was strong enough to bench him, then that either should have been enough without a fine, or there should have been a whopping one.

But then, all of this wasn't just for Santonio Holmes, it also was dog and pony stuff for the NFL and the union.

Good-conduct policy heeded

Teams have been using pro-active suspensions like never before, and we suspect they also have something to do with the league's new conduct policy.

In Kansas City, Larry Johnson may sit for awhile. The Chiefs forced him to miss the past two games after a woman filed an assault charge against him -- 7 1/2 months after he allegedly pushed her in a night club. Most recently, another woman said he spit a drink in her face. This is no third-string guard being suspended by the Chiefs. Johnson topped 1,700 yards rushing in 2005 and 2006 and led the AFC with 417 yards before his suspensions.

Perhaps there is more to the Johnson saga than has made it into the news media and the suspensions of Johnson might be warranted. But such suspensions also could create an ominous scenario that even those who do not bet can easily understand: Place bets on Team A and then give someone enough money to file a complaint against a star player for Team A's opponent. Team suspends star player, bettor collects. Could not happen? Check with Jerome Bettis, who was set up for something more devious in a money-making scheme during one training camp outing.

At work: A team's 12th woman

Perhaps Ben Roethlisberger provided the best reason yet for the Steelers to hire cheerleaders -- as a tactical weapon to win games!

The Steelers quarterback noted the distractions these girls cause when they stretch in the hallway near the opposing team's locker rooms in Washington. Presumably, male players are so distracted by this that they forget the game plan and their legs turn to jelly.

The Steelers were among the first to employ cheerleaders -- the old 1960s bobby-sox kind in pleated skirts -- but booted them before they opened Three Rivers Stadium because, indeed, they caused too many distractions ... for their own team.

Eagles on the Web: Adults only

While we're on the topic of cheerleaders, remember when most everyone in the NFL became highly upset when an ABC-TV promotion featuring wide receiver Terrell Owens and "Desperate Housewives" star Nicollette Sheridan appeared before a Monday Night game in 2004? The league practically forced ABC to apologize for the sexually suggestive ad.

Perhaps the league should turn its sights in-house if they are concerned so much about sex and its viewing public. All anyone needs to do is go to On the opening page at the top, click on the tool bar where it says "cheerleaders" among other topics.

On the very next screen, this warning pops up: "You are now on your way to the Eagles Cheerleaders section of our site. Please note, this area contains mature content.''

What's next does not rival Cinemax after midnight, but it gives some skin magazines competition.

Ed Bouchette can be reached at .


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