“Death Wish 6”: Starring Steelers’ Rooney

In 1974, a highly controversial movie called "Death Wish" was released. Its main character was Paul Kersey, a New York architect played by Charles Bronson, who comes home one evening to find that his condo had been invaded and ransacked, his wife beaten to death, and his married daughter beaten so severely, and also raped, that she was left permanently disabled. Paul Kersey reacted by becoming a vigilante, and as a result, a hero in a city fed up with violent crime.

The smashing success of the film led to a "franchise" of four sequels being released, with Paul Kersey going back and forth between New York and Los Angeles, plus a remake of the 1974 film coming out last year, but starring Bruce Willis in the lead role as Bronson had died in 2003.

But now an NFL franchise is picking up where the title, if not necessarily the theme, left off — the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The first victim of Art Rooney II's brand of vigilante justice (Rooney II is the grandson of Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr., and son of Dan Rooney - not to be confused with Art Rooney Jr., Dan's brother; not sure where Mickey Rooney fit in) was running back Le'Veon Bell, who was slapped with the franchise tag in 2017 and then again in 2018, prompting Bell to call Rooney's bluff and sit out the entire 2018 season. Now Rooney is threatening to franchise Bell for 2019 as well.

Rooney premeditated this entire scenario by drafting James Conner, a virtual Bell clone, in the third round of the 2017 draft (Conner played his college ball for the Pitt Panthers, adding to the sheer exquisiteness of the whole situation), figuring that if Bell didn't knuckle under, he could rely on Conner. How did that work out? In the just-concluded season, the Steelers ranked 31st in the league in rushing offense, their lowest such ranking since 2003, when they were also 31st (these twin next-to-last rankings being Pittsburgh's worst since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970).

Now Rooney is prepared to do the same thing to wide receiver Antonio Brown, by smearing Brown as a "selfish" player who has a "character problem," a "cancer in the locker room," and through his former offensive coordinator (and recently-hired Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach) Bruce Arians, a "diva," which are all well-established and ugly dog whistles.

The idea on Rooney's part is to get rid of Brown at all costs, since such calumny will lower Brown's trade value (Deion Sanders, for his part, has suggested that Jerry Jones should aggressively pursue Brown — and if Jones listens to Sanders, the Cowboys could be headed for a redux of their mini-dynasty of the early '90s, during which they won three Super Bowls in four years and had a 59-16 record, including postseason), the overall strength of the team be damned, and oh yes, Rooney drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster one round before he drafted Conner in 2017.

As if the Steelers didn't have enough problems as is going forward: Ben Roethlisberger isn't getting any younger, or healthier, and they will also be on the business end of the 20th overall pick jinx in 2019. The target of that jinx last year, the Lions, went from 9-7 in 2017 to 6-10 in 2018.

A 6-win season in Pittsburgh in 2019 will likely create a third victim of Rooney's pathetic crusade, albeit an indirect one:

Head coach Mike Tomlin.

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