PITTSBURGH - Alameda Ta'Amu must be a pretty good football player.
Otherwise, he would have been packing his bags at Pittsburgh Steelers headquarters on Tuesday instead of leaving on a two-game suspension.
Ta'Amu is the rookie nose tackle who had an interesting Saturday night. According to police reports, his blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the legal level when he took his vehicle careening through the streets of the South Side, damaging seven cars and injuring one person.
When confronted by police, he tried to flee and wound up in a scuffle with several officers.
Ta'Amu has had alcohol-related problems in the past, before he joined the Steelers in last spring's draft.
The team sized all that up and determined that a two-game suspension without pay was sufficient for a player who hasn't gotten on the field in the first five games.
That seems fairly mild, considering the potential for tragedy created by his irresponsible behavior. It could be that the Steelers saw genuine remorse when they sat Ta'Amu down to get his version of things.
It seems just as likely they weren't willing to cut a player they might need as soon as next year. This is likely the final season for nose tackle Casey Hampton, and Ta'Amu is projected as a possible replacement at an important position. Was that really the determining factor?
A few years ago, receiver Cedric Wilson was involved in a couple of domestic disputes that led to his release from the Steelers. Linebacker James Harrison, one of the main players on the Steelers defense, was also involved in a domestic situation that drew police attention. He obviously was not released.
Chairman Dan Rooney even tried to offer a clumsy excuse in Harrison's defense that further embarrassed the organization.
Every situation is different, but there's little doubt a player's importance to the team factors in how harsh a penalty he receives.
Maybe this is the first and only time Ta'Amu gets his name on the front page rather than the sports section. He'd better hope so.
He escaped the Steelers' wrath this time, but he's probably used up his last chance.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org