The Pittsburgh Steelers are getting the message from the top that it’s time to return to their usual routine for the national anthem. Team president Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the team’s well-intended effort to stay out of politics Sunday in Chicago backfired and won’t happen again. The Steelers plan to stand from the sidelines during Sunday’s anthem in Baltimore: “I expect our team will be on the field like they were prior to last Sunday. Last Sunday was the first time, you know, we ever had any kind of incident with regards to the anthem. It’s over, as far as I’m concerned.” The Steelers planned to stay in the Soldier Field locker room during the anthem before a 23-17 loss to the Chicago Bears as a way to avoid political demonstration. But left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, got separated in an effort to see the flag from the tunnel, where the team was already camped out after ditching the locker room plan at the last minute. Villanueva accidentally got too far out and couldn’t backtrack while the anthem music played. He has publicly apologized for the miscommunication.
Phillips sent a tweet on Friday praising Garrett for the job he’s done as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys: “Jason has done a great coaching job with the Cowboys ( better than I did or would have). Big challenge and opportunity for our team!” Phillips was moved to send the tweet because he’s the defensive coordinator of the Rams, which are facing Garrett’s Cowboys on Sunday. Also remember the history there. Phillips was the head coach of the Cowboys from 2007-2010, getting fired in the middle of his fourth season after leading the Cowboys to the playoffs two of the previous three years. Garrett replaced him midseason and has held the job since. At first, many wondered whether Garrett was the right man for the job after he went 8-8 in his first three full seasons as head coach. Even Phillips had pointed that out. For him to say otherwise now is a big deal.
Muhammad Wilkerson added another wrinkle to his multi-million dollar heist that might make it easy for the Jets to send him packing in a few months. The underachieving defensive lineman, believe it or not, made the strategically smart choice this week to reveal that he’s dealing with a Grade 1 AC joint sprain. (He unwittingly chucked Todd Bowles under the bus in the process. More on that later). Wilkerson’s sudden forthrightness was a savvy move for a guy who knows that his future with the Jets (and lofty 2018 paycheck) is on the line if he flops for a second consecutive season. If/when Wilkerson pulls another disappearing act, he can always claim, “See! I was hurt!” The bottom line in this bottom-line business: Wilkerson has not come close to living up to his five-year, $86 million contract signed before the 2016 season. He has a grand total of 4½ sacks in 18 games since the Jets doled out a fully guaranteed $36.75 million.