Linebacker will make Steelers regret letting him go
Posted: Thursday March 15, 2007 5:59PM; Updated: Thursday March 15, 2007 5:59PM
He hurried through the bowels of the L.A. Coliseum wearing only a towel, a frantic 49ers official at his side. For Ronnie Lott, a future Hall of Famer rushing to the locker room of the franchise that had discarded him -- because San Francisco's Charles Haley was in the middle of a scary postgame tirade, and no one else was capable of calming him down -- this was what complete vindication looked like in September of 1991.
More than 15 years later, I remember the strange scene vividly. And the more I think about the Steelers' dubious decision earlier this month to release linebacker Joey Porter, the more I think history is about to repeat.
But first, back to our blast from the past: Lott, one of the proudest and fiercest men ever to wear a uniform, won four Super Bowls in 10 seasons with the Niners, but the team had allowed him to leave as a Plan B free agent following its crushing defeat to the New York Giants in the 1990 NFC Championship game. He signed with the L.A. Raiders and then, in the midst of an All-Pro season, helped thump his former team, 12-6, to drop San Francisco to 2-3.
Haley, Lott's protégé and the 49ers' star pass rusher, freaked out in the locker room -- railing at the team's new quarterback, Steve Young, for failing to pull out the game the way Joe Montana had so many times in the past. At one point Haley ripped an IV out of his arm, causing blood to spurt everywhere. In an act of painful submission, the Niners sent a team official to the Raiders' locker room to summon Lott from the shower, and only then was order restored.
I'm not saying the same thing will happen to Porter and one of his former Pittsburgh teammates when the Miami Dolphins face the Steelers at Heinz Field this season. But I do believe that by the end of 2007, the franchise that employed Porter for the first eight years of his exceptional career will be humiliated for having let him go.
Did anyone else think it was at least slightly insane that the Steelers, faced with paying Porter a $1 million roster bonus and $4 million in base salary for '07, simply cut him, rather than trying to get him to agree to a restructured deal? Porter, who ended up signing a five-year, $32 million contract with the Dolphins that included $20 million in guaranteed money, certainly did.
"I wish I just had an opportunity to turn down a deal," Porter told me earlier this week. "They didn't know what I would've turned down, so why not make an offer? That was the shocking thing -- they didn't even give me the option to stay. That's what was so frustrating."
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