Alameda Ta'amu knows he is lucky to be playing football again perhaps even lucky to be alive. He also knows he is lucky the Steelers decided to stick by him and help him with his affliction when they easily could have elected to rid themselves of an off-field problem.

Ta'amu a fourth-round draft choice in 2012 is a big man who has been trying to overcome a big problem. He has spent the past 10 months trying to move forward from a late-night drunken-driving rampage through the South Side in which he was chased by police endangered patrons along East Carson Street and caused $22000 in damage. Fortunately nobody was seriously injured.

At the time Ta'amu was charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor offenses. He was sentenced later to 18 months probation after pleading guilty to three counts of reckless endangerment.

"I just want to keep working and hopefully that the next time people start talking it will be about football" Ta'amu said. "I just want to keep quiet and let my work do the noise."

The Steelers thought Ta'amu was capable of making a lot of noise on the field. They drafted the massive nose tackle from the University of Washington with the hope he would be the eventual replacement for Casey Hampton a five-time Pro Bowler.

Like Hampton Ta'amu was thick and hard to move weighing 372 pounds with legs as sturdy as oak stumps. He also idolized Hampton and studied the way he played even when he was in college. The Steelers had high hopes for Ta'amu who was rated the No. 2 nose tackle in the draft.

But those hopes became an ugly distraction Oct. 14.

According to police Ta'amu was spotted by an off-duty officer driving the wrong way on Fort Pitt Boulevard and then over the Smithfield Bridge early that morning.

As he drove erratically on East Carson Street officers on foot drew their guns and yelled for him to stop. Ta'amu's vehicle a Lincoln Navigator nearly hit several officers and struck four parked cars.

A woman inside one car was injured.

Ta'amu eventually jumped out of his SUV when it crashed and ran tearing off his shirt with police in pursuit. It took four officers and two sets of handcuffs to restrain Ta'amu once they finally caught him. His blood-alcohol level was 0.196.

"It was tough but I put that on myself" Ta'amu said the other day before practice. "All the mistakes were because of me. It's up to me to fix them and try to do better this year."

It was not his first DUI incident. In December 2009 he was arrested for driving under the influence while attending college but pleaded guilty to a charge of negligent driving.

After his South Side rampage Ta'amu had to undergo counseling and therapy and entered the NFL's substance-abuse program. His attorney Robert Del Greco said his client has random drug and alcohol screenings two to three times per week.

The Steelers suspended Ta'amu for two games without pay after his arrest and eventually reinstated him. They cut him Nov. 12 and assigned him to the practice squad but re-signed him to the active roster Dec. 29 before the final regular-season game. At the time safety Ryan Clark the team's player representative said it was important for the Steelers to stick by Ta'amu even though what he did was wrong.