Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert was besieged with almost as much criticism as Antonio Brown recently when he went a long way to defend quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his right to speak his mind as it concerns the team, even if it means publicly calling people out—including himself, he added.
Obviously the comment that drew the most heat is when he poorly chose to use the word “kids” to refer to the 52 members of the team’s 53-man roster that has not won a Super Bowl with the Steelers. This was shot down from a variety of people, and was a subject in Brown’s recent ESPN interview. He even indicated that Maurkice Pouncey—and perhaps by extension, other players as well—didn’t care for the comment.
So he spent a lot of the rest of the ensuing week trying to provide greater context to his remarks, endeavoring to frame it as he intended, to make reference to Roethlisberger’s championship experience as a contrast to literally every other player on the roster, all of whom have a least five fewer seasons on NFL play under their belts.
During last Wednesday’s media rounds, Colbert went on Steelers Nation Radio to talk about a variety of topics, including the ‘kids’ remark, in which he explained that while Roethlisberger is the unquestioned leader of the team, he is not the only one, and the team also needs more from the rest of the group.
“Of course he’s the leader”, he said of Roethlisberger. “Does that mean we don’t have others? No. I mean, Cam Heyward, Maurkice Pouncey, we had that conversation about leadership, about supplementing Ben’s leadership, right after the season in our exit interviews. And they understand what they’re capable of. So I look forward to seeing what they do moving forward”.
Cameron Heyward has been a defensive captain for years now and Pouncey has long been acknowledged as part of this team’s nucleus. He is the only Steelers player in recent memory that was an immediate starter and All-Pro right at the start of his career. Outside of a couple of youthful missteps, he has always commanded respect.
They are of course not the only ones, and we could also be seeing the critical emergence of the next group of young leaders, their third-year Pro Bowlers in outside linebacker T.J. Watt, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and running back James Conner.
This is a locker room that needs to police itself, and frankly it might be one that needs to come close to a full reboot. With Brown and Le’Veon Bell likely finding new destinations, the hierarchy will be resetting somewhat with Roethlisberger clearly at the top and there being room for growth from within.