So, kids, it sounds like the broader sports media is begging us to weigh in on the latest manufactured drama. I’ve volunteered to take on that task myself. During a pool report with local media members on Wednesday, Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert was asked about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s occasionally critical pubic comments about his teammates, and if he was okay with that.
Within his answer, Colbert referred to the rest of the Steelers roster as “kids” in comparison, who will turn 37 in a couple of weeks and is nearly four years older than the next-oldest player on the roster, that being Ramon Foster, who is also the second-longest tenured. Foster just completed his 10th season in the NFL, while Roethlisberger completed his 15th. His career is literally 50 percent longer than his left guard’s.
Apparently Colbert’s reference to the other players on the roster as “kids” was greatly offensive, especially when viewed with no context. Personally, I have no issue with the remark even without much context, but the discussion in which it arose is important as well.
While the franchise quarterback is a position that naturally lends itself to a certain prestige and authority, Roethlisberger’s status in Pittsburgh is even more distinct not just because he has played at least 50 percent longer than everybody else, but also because he is the only one on the roster (outside of Morgan Burnett with the Green Bay Packers) who has experienced what it’s like to win an NFL championship, having done so twice.
First, let’s make clear exactly what Colbert was asked, which we know thanks to the transcript provided to us by Will Graves of the Associated Press. “Ben has said he’s earned the right to be critical, even if it’s in public”, Colbert was asked. “Do you talk to him about that? Do you wish he’d be quieter?”.
“No, because Ben is the unquestioned leader of this group”, he began in his response. “Like I said, he’s the elder statesmen and the Super Bowl winner. If our players were smart, they’d listen to him because he’s been there. He’s done it. He can tell them, ‘no guys, what you’re doing is or is not good enough to do this’”.
He went on to reiterate a previous comment that such a role could be a burden on him before saying, “he’s got 52 kids under him quite honestly. I want them to step up and say, ‘hey Ben, what do I have to do? Can I do this better? What do we have to do to win a Super Bowl?’”.
Colbert was speaking about Roethlisberger within the context of a roster in which only one player has ever gone through the process of winning a Super Bowl. That player has also played longer and is older by statistically significant degrees.
By comparison, it’s perfectly reasonable to use the relative term of ‘kid’ within that context. Players, coaches, owners, general managers, and everybody else use the term ‘kid’ to refer to people who are younger or less experienced than they are, and it happens in every other walk of life, as well. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a YouTube video compiling all of the times that Jon Gruden or Mike Mayock referred to a veteran NFL player as “this kid” during a broadcast.
It’s a figure of speech and nothing more. Certainly nothing that merits any sort of drama. It’s fairly innocuous even when removed from its context, but reading it as part of the complete quote makes it abundantly clear that the term ‘kid’ wasn’t intended disparagingly. And frankly, if any veteran Steelers players took offense to that, then it says something about the fragility of their ego.