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CHRISTOPHER HORNER | TRIBUNE-REVIEW
a Rob Rossi column

Joey Porter has failed Steelers' 'standard'

"Pending further review, Joey Porter has been placed on leave."
— Kevin Colbert, Steelers GM (in a prepared statement)


What, you thought the big issue facing Pittsburgh's Steelers was whether coach Mike Tomlin had threatened the continuation of mankind by allowing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to keep playing late in an AFC wild-card game victory over the Miami Dolphins?

Nah.

The issue was Joey Porter, currently a Steelers assistant coach, formerly a Steelers player, and seemingly forever capable of becoming a Steelers distraction.

Whether it be in Denver, Cincinnati or on Pittsburgh's South Side, Porter has made habit of making Steelers teammates, coaches and management talk too often about his bad luck.

Thing is, a lot of times we create our own luck. And if Porter has finally run out of luck with the organization that has provided him a lot of other chances, that's on him.

Not the Steelers.

Though, good on the Steelers for getting out in front on this latest Porter problem. Only way they could have handled it better was to firmly declare him as suspended for all remaining NFL playoff games.

Then again, there might only be one remaining playoff game for the Steelers; so, perhaps phrasing Porter's status as "on leave" is a punishment more befitting the crime he committed.

Oh, Porter definitely committed a crime. Might not be one that requires him to appear before a jury of his peers, but his actions on Sunday night surely render him guilty of breaking any football coach's commandments.

Thou shalt have no other gods before the team.

Indeed, Porter proved himself again a sinner. And while this sin was not his first and he is the not the first sinner, Porter made the mistake of continuing to sin long after completing his holiest of work for a franchise that might actually be more popular than Jesus in this country.

(Hey, Jesus Nation doesn't travel anywhere near as well as Steelers Nation.)

A nation is only as strong as its weakest link, though.

Porter had turned himself into the link that might break the Steelers' chain. Given how far they have come to get another crack at winning at the stadium of an AFC West champion for the (likely) opportunity to deliver some (potential) karmic payback to Patriots in New England, this particular Steelers squad deserved to be relieved of the distraction that had become one of its assistant coaches.

The Steelers had to temporarily sack one of their all-time sack masters. They owed these coaches and players the clearest path towards success in a postseason that feels like any team's for the taking.

After the Steelers' win over Dolphins, focus outside the team's offices shifted to debating if Tomlin had been right to keep Roethlisberger in a blowout. It was a silly debate, because Tomlin doesn't answer to those who were staging it.

Porter does answer to Tomlin.

And the guess here is Tomlin couldn't stomach this week becoming "The New Adventures of Old Joey." Even enduring an unnecessary remake of "My Big Fat Ben Injury" would be better for the business of preparing for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Big Ben's boot wasn't spotted by those mortals among us until after the Steelers' 35th playoff win. (AP)

Not that anybody associated with the Steelers should have been asked to answer for Porter. Not that there is any defending it, either.

Porter willfully put himself in position where trouble could find him on Sunday night.

He put himself in that position away from the football field. He put himself in that position only a few hours after his employer's first home playoff victory in a half-decade.

He put himself in that position despite knowing how hard it is for any football team, even one representing the flagship NFL franchise of the Super Bowl era, to overcome the normal adversity that pops up during a potentially month-long playoff pursuit.

The adversity that Porter imposed upon the Steelers late Sunday night was not of the normal variety. They deserved better from somebody who should know a lot better.

Porter can only be viewed to lack regard for anybody other than himself.

He behaved with selfishness and stupidity by being in the position he was on Sunday night, and that will be true regardless of what becomes of the incident that ultimately required him to post bond merely to return to return home — let alone get back to working.

Porter made himself bigger than the team, which is a strike against the very "standard" that Tomlin had made his stated mission to uphold.

To ever convincingly use that phrase again, Tomlin needed to remove Porter from the equation. Porter had become a predictable variable that could only disprove any equation the Steelers are trying to prove this Sunday in Kansas City and beyond.

In the NFL playoffs, teams are best to boot distractions whenever possible.

Rob Rossi is our sports editor. He wants you to follow him on Twitter.

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