Bears

Combating divisiveness, Steelers opt to skip national anthem in display of team unity

Combating divisiveness, Steelers opt to skip national anthem in display of team unity

All eyes were on the NFL Sunday afternoon after President Donald Trump told his supporters at a rally on Friday night that team owners should fire any "son of a bitch" who protests or takes a knee during the National Anthem.

The remarks fell on deaf ears as the Pittsburgh Steelers took a stance against President Trump before their 23-17 overtime loss to the Bears at Soldier Field.

In a display of unity, the Steelers were one of three teams on Sunday — along with the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks — who remained in the locker room during the national anthem in an attempt to combat divisiveness.

The Steelers decision was agreed upon during a players' only meeting at the team hotel on Saturday night.

"You know, by no means, no way shape or form, was there any disrespect intended towards our troops and those that serve this country," Steelers quarterback and team captain Ben Roethlisberger said. "We all have the utmost respect for them obviously. They give us the freedom to play this game. Last night, obviously with all the issues going on if you will, we had a players' only meeting after the team meeting last night, we decided we were going to talk about what we were going to do because we know some guys wanted to take a knee, guys wanted to stand.

"We said whatever we do, we need to make sure we are unified as one group because that is what we are about and that is what it should be about. Staying together as one unit, one group, one brotherhood, things like that so rather than having one guy kneel, one guy stand, the conclusion was made by everybody that the best to do was to stay in the locker (or in the tunnel if you will) and show respect that way."

When the Steelers ran out of the tunnel following the anthem, they were met by a chorus of boos from the Soldier Field crowd

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who revealed in a pregame interview on Sunday that the team wouldn't be taking the field during the national anthem, made it clear that the most important aspect of the team's decision was to stay united

"They were not going to be disrespectful during the anthem so they choose not to participate during the anthem, but at the same time many of them were not going to accept the words of the President," Tomlin said. "So, we decided to sit out and not take the field, to remove ourselves from it, so we could focus on playing football. Those were our intentions."

While nearly every member of the Steelers organization stayed in the locker room during the national anthem, one player stood in front of the tunnel.

Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former United States Army Ranger and Captain who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan, was seen in the tunnel with his right hand over his heart.

Villanueva wasn't available for comment following Sunday's game, but his teammates made it clear that they had no problem with his decision to distance himself from the rest of the team.

"Al is a hell of a man and I appreciate everything he does," Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said. "This man went over and served our country like no other and we've commended him every single day." 

In addition to the support of their head coach, the Steelers had the backing of team President Art Rooney II for their decision.

While President Trump may not agree with the displays around the league as evidence by him going on another Twitter rant about wanting to see the NFL change its policy regarding the national anthem, commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't plan on fining any players for their Week 3 protests.

If that's the case, would these displays continue throughout the entire season? Possibly.

"It isn't just one day," Heyward said. "We're out in the community. We're trying to make changes, not by just one person but as a team. It doesn't matter what goes on. We're trying to build a better society, a better city and a better America for everyone."

Eddy Pineiro's mental edge is exactly what the Bears need

Eddy Pineiro's mental edge is exactly what the Bears need

Back when the Bears traded for Eddy Pineiro on May 6 — following that nine-kicker rookie minicamp circus — his old kicking coach offered some analysis that now looks particularly prescient.

“He. Is. The. Man,” kicking coach Brandon Kornblue texted NBC Sports Chicago. “He has the mental edge. Not afraid of anything.

“I think he is perfect for this situation.”

Four months later, Pineiro drilled a game-winning 53-yard field goal against the Denver Broncos. He won the team’s kicking competition, then won a game. This is the outcome the Bears hoped they’d realize though all the 43-yard tries and Augusta silences and dealer’s choices in the spring and summer. 

But beyond just making the kick, what stood out is how badly Pineiro wanted the ball on his foot to end the game. 

“I was praying on the sidelines that I was able to get that moment,” Pineiro said. “I was like please, God, give me this opportunity, I want to get in this spotlight to make this happen for the team.”

Mental edge. Not afraid of anything. Perfect for the situation. 

The stakes of Pineiro’s kick were massive — maybe not as dire as John Fox might’ve thought — given the discouraging track record of teams that begin a season 0-2. The moment was not too big for him, since it was the exact moment he wanted. 

“I knew I was ready for it,” Pineiro said. “From all the things that I’ve been put through, the Augusta silence, the kickers getting cut left and right, I feel like I was ready for it.”

There’s something to be said for a kicker wanting to be in that moment. It’s easy to get the impression that’s the case with Pineiro; it would’ve been a lot harder to come to that conclusion with Cody Parkey a year ago, even before the double-doink. Parkey missed a game-winning field goal in Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins, then hit the upright four times against the Detroit Lions, and even a week before the playoff game booted a PAT off an upright against the Minnesota Vikings. 

The Bears now know they can trust Pineiro in those kind of moments. Because the next time they need a game-winning kick, they’ll know their guy is not just confident he can do it. He wants the opportunity to have the ball on his foot with time expiring, and wants it badly. 

“He definitely craves the pressure,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said. “And that's something that coach Nagy has talked about for a long time, craving pressure and being in those pressure situations. We’ve been there before, now how do we deliver?”

Pineiro delivered. And the Bears can count on him to deliver again. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Bears are road favorites in Week 3 vs. Redskins

Bears are road favorites in Week 3 vs. Redskins

For the second week in a row, the Chicago Bears are road favorites heading into Monday night's showdown with the Washington Redskins.

The Bears were a rare road favorite in Denver for the Broncos' home-opener in Week 2, and are a four-point favorite against the Redskins at FedEx Field Monday.

This point spread represents a decent amount of confidence that Chicago will come away with a win Monday night. Home teams normally get a three-point edge by default, so for oddsmakers to like the Bears by four points suggests it should be a game they win by a touchdown or more.

Whether the Bears can pull off a victory is only part of the story in Week 3. It's already the second game Chicago will play in front of a national television audience, and no player needs a breakout performance worse than Mitch Trubisky. He has to change the narrative that's crystallizing around his career, one that suggests he's a game manager who the Bears win in spite of. He needs a breakthrough game that announces his arrival as a franchise quarterback, and there's no better time to do that than on Monday Night Football.

As for the rest of the NFC North, the Packers are eight-point favorites at home against the Broncos, the Lions are seven-point underdogs on the road against the Eagles and the Vikings are 7.5-point favorites at home against the Raiders.

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.