One of the touchy subjects around the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent months has been the notion of accountability, and who among them is able to practice what they preach. Seemingly everybody has been accused of shirking responsibility for their failures or actions and inactions by someone or another in the organization.
And the truth is that there has been some of that going around, if not a lot. Far too much has been made of such claims regarding Ben Roethlisberger, but his post-Denver comments would certainly qualify regarding his game-ending endzone interception. Antonio Brown, the target on that throw, has been similarly guilty. As has Le’Veon Bell, the running back who didn’t show up.
But yesterday, General Manager Kevin Colbert acknowledged that it was the Steelers’ own inexperience that played a role in the relationship between Brown and Bell with the team going south, to the point at which it seems that a divorce is rather imminent with the pair of first-team All-Pro talents.
“We want players to grow into great players, Pro Bowlers, potential Hall of Famers”, he said while speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine yesterday in Indianapolis. “But I think what we’re learning, and it’s a different world. I mean look what we’re doing here [at the Combine]. 30 years ago, this didn’t happen. So it’s a different world. Social media has changed things. Branding as changed things”.
This is a topic that he, Art Rooney II, and Mike Tomlin have touched on a number of times in addressing similar circumstances, Tomlin in particular, and he talks about the necessity of embracing that as a part of the modern athlete’s life. But Colbert also acknowledged that it’s still a work in progress in understanding it all.
“We have to do a better job of managing young players as they grow into mega stars”, he admitted. “I think that’s something we’re learning on the fly, but it’s a little more relevant this year because Le’Veon’s situation and Antonio’s situation. But the lesson is maybe we’ve got to catch these guys when they’re young”.
The Steelers have been faulted for allowing Bell and Brown to exceed their teammates in stature, especially as it pertains to Brown, affording him special privileges that snowballed into a serious issue over the course of the past six or seven years.
Now that it has all blown up in their faces, and the relationship with Brown possibly irreparable, all that is left for them to do is to analyze the black box salvaged from the wreckage and learn from the incident, so that they can try to avoid making the same mistakes with the next “mega star” that comes down the pipeline—perhaps JuJu Smith-Schuster?