STARKEY: Reading the Rooney tea leaves on Steelers

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
  • Steelers president Art Rooney II recently gave his end-of-the-season address.
  • Rooney talked about multiple topics, including the status of the team's three offensive stars.
  • Rooney also touched on a recent incident at a high school game involving assistant Joey Porter.

Art Rooney II’s words are not to be taken lightly.

Remember the time the Steelers president said Ben Roethlisberger needed to “tweak” his game in order to absorb fewer hits?

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II is hoping his team can enjoy a "special season" despite dealing with a number of distractions.

Three days later, like something out of The Sopranos, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians mysteriously “retired.”

It’s always fascinating to try to read into Rooney’s words, and his latest end-of-season address provided ample opportunity. It was chock full o’ treats.

Let’s take them one at a time, as they say, combining Rooney’s interviews with selected media and …

Rooney on Antonio Brown’s misdeeds: “I would call them little annoyances. Emphasis on little, as far as I’m concerned.”

So true. And so well said, coming from a man who has seen far worse. What has Antonio Brown done compared to players who’ve been arrested for violent acts or suspended on account of drug use (or flat-out stupidity) or put themselves and others into terrible predicaments of all types?

Do you really think Rooney’s going to flip out over a Facebook Live video?

Unless Brown wants ridiculous money — and that is possible — expect him to sign a well-earned, multiyear deal. And expect the ungrateful portion of the fan base that rips him to cheer like crazy when he wins the division with another epic touchdown catch.

What kind of contract will Antonio Brown earn this offseason? (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

On his talk with Roethlisberger in the wake of the quarterback not committing to next season: “I told him I think he has some years left. I think he feels that way. … I think (what he said)  is mostly a reaction to his age and where he is in his career and just coming off a disappointing loss. … Hopefully, he won’t take too much time making his decision here.”

Roethlisberger isn’t going anywhere. Maybe not for a long time. Back when Rooney talked about “tweaking” Ben’s game, the Steelers initiated a plan to preserve their quarterback into his late 30s. They have executed it to near-perfection. He hardly gets hit anymore. He has an outstanding line, an elite receiver, an elite running back and the possibility of several other dangerous weapons if players can stay healthy, and, in Martavis Bryant’s case, off drugs.

On the possibility of using the franchise tag on unrestricted (but then again, totally restricted) free agent Le’Veon Bell: “It’s certainly something available to us. … Bottom line, we feel Le’Veon’s future is bright. Hopefully he’s going to be with us for several years.”

Some feel it would be insane to sign Brown long term this offseason. I feel that way about Bell, who has yet to start and finish the same season. Now he’s talking about the possibility of groin surgery. The franchise tag is the only way to go here.

Bell is the best running back in the NFL, no matter what “Shrimp” Bayless says, but let’s see how he’s feeling after a 350-touch season before we talk about five-year contracts.

On a recent report of Joey Porter’s antics at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic football games: “I was not aware of anything. I heard about the article. Hard for me to put a lot of weight on something that’s unnamed sources, so I really don’t have any comment on that.”

The article in question was written by John Steigerwald and appeared in the Indiana Gazette and Washington Observer. Steigerwald wrote that Porter, whose son and nephew played at North Catholic, caused problems during a game at Riverside, requiring police intervention. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mike White spoke with Riverside coach Ron Sciarro, who confirmed there was “an incident” involving Porter.

Steigerwald wrote that Porter, the Steelers’ loose-cannon linebackers coach, ran onto the field to badger officials, who “asked the North Sewickley police to remove Porter.” Porter reportedly calmed down. The storm around him shouldn’t, if this is true.

You might know that Kevin Colbert sits on North Catholic’s board of directors and that Dan Rooney is a distinguished alum. In fact, the practice areas for the North Catholic athletic teams will be named the Ambassador Dan Rooney Athletic Complex.

If the story is even part-true, Porter should, at the very least, be put on a third-strike-and-you’re-out policy. Sounds as if he acted like a disruptive jerk, which, combined with his South Side escapade, should have the Steelers feeling plenty embarrassed.

On the possibility of drafting a quarterback: “We haven’t drafted a quarterback for several years now, so we’re probably due to look at the position.”

In which round? That’s the question. If they’re looking to draft a backup in the later rounds, why not just re-sign Landry Jones? If they’re looking to draft Ben’s successor, it’s best to wait a year or two and take a guy they truly believe can be a star. This year’s early picks are best used on defensive players — Rooney said he’d like to see a better pass rush — and perhaps another weapon for Roethlisberger.

The Steelers’ essential question, really, is this: How do we beat the New England Patriots?

One of two ways, I’d say: Outscore them, or defend Tom Brady better.

Make that defend Tom Brady, period.