Casting 10 Pittsburgh Steelers Players as Sopranos Characters
Unfazed by Mike Wallace's holdout, Tomlin said "this thing" is bigger than Wallace, as reported by Ed Bouchette in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Tomlin said "this thing" is bigger than anyone on the team, including himself.
That's how characters in The Sopranos referred to the way they made a living, although many of them pronounced it "this ting."
Tomlin's tenure as Steelers head coach began in 2007, right around the time the final season of The Sopranos hit the airwaves.
Now, without his top receiver in training camp, Tomlin is showing the same fearless leadership as fictional boss Tony Soprano.
Both preside over a gang of tough guys. Tomlin's men just don't use weapons, or if they use their helmets as weapons, they get a sit-down with Roger Goodell, the Agent Harris of the NFL.
Like members of the Sopranos' family, Steelers players could call their boss "T" if they were so inclined, and many of them are the Steelers' parallel to Sopranos characters under Tony's command.
The Steelpranos, if you will.
Mike Wallace: Ralph
Speaking of Mike Wallace, he's rocking the boat a little bit because he feels like he's getting a raw deal.
Ralph Cifaretto, played by Joe Pantoliano, became a malcontent after Tony Soprano passed him over for captain.
Like Ralph, Wallace is a valuable piece of manpower who's giving management some headaches. Even last season, when his production declined over the final eight games, Wallace had a bit of an attitude, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Wallace might want to take a look at the third and fourth seasons of The Sopranos to see how things turned out for Ralphie. The boss always wins these battles. His head will remain attached, of course, but it's looking more and more like Wallace's time in Pittsburgh won't end happily.
Antonio Brown: Sil
As human beings, every Sopranos character was flawed in one way or another. It was a dark show that dealt with the dark side of humanity.
There were no truly likeable characters, but some didn't seem as evil as others.
Silvio Dante might have whacked a few people and slapped a few strippers in his employ, but his quirks provided enough comic relief to endear him to the audience.
Played by Steven Van Zandt (who in real life played with Bruce Springsteen at halftime of the Steelers' Super Bowl XLIII victory), Silvio was Tony's second-in-command—his consigliere. He was Tony's go-to guy for advice on business matters.
Antonio Brown, who gives back to the community through Antonio Brown Charities and outwardly appears to be one of the more upstanding pro athletes, was the Steelers' Most Valuable Player in 2011 and their go-to guy on third down.
The Steelers rewarded him, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with a six-year, $42.5 million contract.
Now, Brown will be doing some serious earnin'.
Willie Colon: Georgie
Like Georgie, Steelers' offensive lineman Willie Colon is a large man, doing grunt work, who's always getting hurt.
Georgie, played by Frank Santorelli, had a hard time keeping his mouth shut. So about once a season, you could count on Tony beating him with whatever instrument was handy. Even Ralphie got in on the fun of beating Georgie.
At least, Colon's injuries have come in the line of duty. He missed all of 2010 with an Achilles tendon injury, and his 2011 season ended in the opener when he hurt his triceps.
Colon is expected to start at left guard for the Steelers in 2012, if he can stay healthy.
Casey Hampton: Bobby
Sure, rookie Alameda Ta'amu has a few pounds on him, but 300-something-pound Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton always will be "The Big Snack."
Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri once came back from picking up medicine for Uncle Junior, and Junior asked him how many White Castles he had while he was out.
In another scene, Bobby had a conversation with Vito, another roly-poly character on the show. Upon seeing this, Paulie Walnuts cracked that the two men standing together looked like a "before and way before" picture.
Bobby, played by Steven R. Schirripa, got whacked in his final season. Hampton could be entering his final season with the Steelers, although his exit won't be nearly as violent.
James Harrison: Paulie
Paulie "Walnuts" Gaultieri is getting on in years but can still whack people—just like James Harrison.
Paulie, played by Tony Sirico, spent some time in the can.
The 34-year-old Harrison has served time in the NFL's version of the can.
Colt McCoy might no longer be starting for the Browns, but he's still with us.
Shaun Suisham: Artie
Shaun Suisham is the Steelers kicker. He wears the uniform and scores points for the team, but he's not really, you know, a football player.
Artie Bucco, played by John Ventimiglia, is Tony's childhood friend and runs the wise guys' favorite restaurant. He might try to get involved in Tony's schemes every now and then, but he's not really one of them.
Artie had his moment, beating the hell out of Benny Fazio for stealing from his restaurant and having a relationship with an employee he had a crush on.
Most of the time, however, Artie is left out of the reindeer games, or he takes a beating trying to be a player.
Suisham's "beating Benny" moment came when he kicked four field goals, all of them more than 40 yards and one of them the game-winner, in an overtime win at Buffalo in 2010. There also was his game-winner with four seconds left last season in Indianapolis.
Overall, though, Suisham really doesn't have a big leg and can be embarrassingly bad, like his horrible 52-yard attempt in Super Bowl XLV that almost landed in Fort Worth.
And when any kicker tries to make a tackle, he can end up like Artie when he tried to shake down this Frenchman in the scene shown here.
Troy Polamalu: Furio
Well, there's the hair.
Troy Polamalu is noted for his mane, and Furio Giunta, played by Federico Castelluccio, is noted for his ponytail.
In a league where dozens of players have rap sheets, Polamalu's character stands head and shoulders above the rest.
On a show about criminals in which even the civilians have a sinister side, Furio is one of the few generally sympathetic characters.
Furio provides Tony with muscle and isn't afraid to get physical to collect some money or settle a score.
Polamalu treats opponents the same way Furio did on the show but also has a softer side.
Furio's softer side emerged as he developed a crush on Carmela, Tony's wife. The feeling was mutual, but neither party acted on it.
Furio's jealousy of Tony boiled to the point where he grabbed him and thought about throwing him into an airplane propeller on a casino trip.
That set the stage for what turned out to be a graceful exit by Sopranos standards. After that incident, Furio fled back home to Italy. He was a marked man in the mother country, but he never got whacked. He just went away on his own.
Let's hope Polamalu's exit from the NFL, which could be in the not-too-distant future, is just as smooth.
Keenan Lewis: A.J.
Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis had some growing up to do. The defining moment of his first three years as a Steeler was Mike Tomlin grabbing his jersey and chewing him out during a 2010 preseason game in Denver.
Now, Lewis has the inside track on a starting cornerback job. He's come a long way.
Anthony Soprano Jr., played by Robert Iler, needed a few stern lectures as he grew up before our eyes during the show's eight-year run.
There was the mouthing off that comes with the territory of raising a teenage boy, but A.J.'s transgressions went way beyond that.
He smoked pot in the garage at his confirmation party. He and some friends broke into his school's swimming pool area and trashed the place, which led to his expulsion.
Even after high school, A.J. seems to lack direction, but he finally starts to resemble a young adult in the series finale. In one scene, Tony finds A.J. jogging on the side of the road. This shows how far A.J. has come from that pudgy preteen of the show's first couple of seasons.
In the show's famous final scene (yes, this is my excuse to use that scene), A.J. says "Focus on the good times," showing he actually listened to at least one of his father's nuggets of advice. At first, Tony thinks he's being sarcastic, but then realizes that, oh yeah, he did tell him that once.
If Lewis listens to his coaches, maybe all his yapping about a Pro Bowl season will ring true.
Mike Adams: Christopher
Christopher Moltisanti, played by Michael Imperioli, had some problems with illegal substances. Yet, he rose quickly in the Soprano family because he was Tony's nephew.
A lot was expected of Chris. Tony groomed him to eventually be his second-in-command because he trusted only family.
Steelers rookie tackle Mike Adams hasn't partaken in the type of hard-core vices that Chris did, but he tested positive for marijuana and lied to the Steelers about it at the scouting combine.
Adams, who grew up with Steelers posters on his walls, apologized and begged his way back on to their draft board.
Just as Tony did several times for Christopher, the Steelers gave Adams a second chance and drafted him in the second round.
Now, much is expected of this kid who grew up a member of Steeler Nation. The rookie has a chance to win one of the team's most important jobs, protecting Ben Roethlisberger's blind side as the starting left tackle.
It might seem premature for a rookie to have so much responsibility, but the Steelers didn't stick their neck out for a guy to watch and learn for two years.
Ben Roethlisberger: Tony Blundetto
Steve Buscemi burst onto the scene in The Sopranos in Season 5 and played Tony Blundetto, Tony's cousin who's back after 15 years in prison.
Blundetto tries to go legit but slips back into a life of crime.
After serving four games in the NFL's penal system, Ben Roethlisberger is trying to straighten out his act. That maturity is being tested, though, with the arrival of offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Roethlisberger has to study a new playbook just as hard as Blundetto studied to be a massage therapist.
The subject matter will be different, but we can expect at least one confrontation between Haley and Roethlisberger similar to the one shown here.
As much as Tony Soprano tries to keep his cousin in line, Blundetto whacks the brother of New York crime boss Phil Leotardo, and Leotardo wants him dead because of it. So, Blundetto has to flee to upstate New York.
With the shoddy pass protection he's had, Roethlisberger, too, has been on the run.