Artistry: Let's take these one at time. First, James Harrison. His inflammatory comments get a lot of play, it seems like his propensity for violence may not be limited to the football field, and he reportedly trashes his own teammates - notably Ben Roethisberger - in the new Men's Journal article. But get rid of him? No. You don't cut the cord on someone merely for being outspoken. Let me channel Ron Cook for a second: This is America, remember? I'm confident that there are plenty of morons, miscreants, and a--holes on every team in football, and we shouldn't be so offended every time somebody gives us evidence of that. Now, the Rooneys may well decide at some point that James Harrison is a liability, that some off-field controversy outweighs his contributions between the lines. We're not close to that point. He's not a (convicted) criminal. If you read his blog, he can actually be pretty thoughtful. He mostly just pushes buttons, though I reserve the right to come down harder on him once I see this alleged gay slur. Now, your second question is much more troubling to me. It's never a punter or backup lineman stirring up offseason controversy for the Steelers (though sometimes backup tight-ends and kickers cross-swords in the parking lot). It's the team captains. It's Hall of Fame level guys like Hines Ward, Harrison and Roethlisberger. It's major contributors like Santonio Holmes and Rashard Mendenhall and Jeff Reed. Is there a leadership vacuum here?
Finesse: I don't actually believe that the Steelers should let Harrison go because he is too good of a player and plays his ass off on the field. But it's worth asking the question, because the constant distraction caused by Harrison and the players you mentioned is getting, well, very annoying. There's no other way to put it. I'd just like it to stop so that I can watch ESPN NFL Countdown without the Steelers' "image" being discussed for 2 segments (joking, I'd never ever watch that show). As to whether there is a leadership vacuum, I'd say yes, there probably is. The first potential "leader" to look at is Tomlin who, while we love almost everything about him, has essentially seen all his best players do something embarrassing at various points during his tenure. Obviously he can't go to Georgia and take the keys away from Hines Ward (in fact, no one from the Steelers' organization should ever go back to Georgia), and he can't dive in front of Cedrick Wilson's girlfriend. But is he letting the inmates run the asylum? Most of the veterans on the Steelers, for as fantastic and successful as they have been, are almost unbearable to listen to. They're arrogant with a persecution complex -- a deadly combination, that Tomlin may not perpetuate, but does enable. Of course, it doesn't help when your other supposed leader -- your star QB -- is the biggest culprit of them all.
Artistry: Go easy on Ben. He's a family man now. Besides, Harrison's comment about the quarterback is probably the one that will raise the most eyebrows:
“Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain’t that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does.”Oh boy. Looks like someone just excused himself from the Band of Brothers. It's hard for me to put any of this on Tomlin. If anything, he's tougher on the players than Bill Cowher ever was. You hit it on the nose by suggesting we may be just looking at a bad batch of guys. We've got a potentially homophobic rage-a-holic linebacker, a possibly reformed but still largely insufferable alleged sexual predator QB, an alleged drunk driver, and a Bin Laden apologist leading the charge out of the Heinz Field tunnel. Lucky we cut the guy who destroyed the paper towel dispenser. Otherwise, we might have a PR issue.