Kevin Colbert dismisses idea that Steelers are involved in ‘huge drama’
INDIANAPOLIS — Although Kevin Colbert is general manager of a professional sports team, some think he oversees a drama club.
Colbert doesn’t see it that way, and he made his feelings crystal clear Wednesday at the NFL Combine.
Colbert took exception when a reporter asked about the off-field antics that have engulfed the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent seasons.
“I really don’t agree with the perception that there is huge drama within the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room,” Colbert said.
Issues about the team’s culture were raised again with Antonio Brown’s trade request and his criticism on social media of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and coach Mike Tomlin. Roethlisberger’s leadership was called into question, prompting Colbert last week to call the quarterback the “unquestioned leader” on the team. Brown’s antics led to questions about whether Tomlin had lost control of the team.
“Coach Tomlin treats our players like men,” Colbert said. “He gives them the opportunity to be a man. He tries to grow them not only as professional football players, but as fathers, as brothers, just as men. I really have a complete disagreement that the perception that our locker room is anything but very functional.”
Colbert was asked whether he has learned any lessons over the past two years in terms of how to deal with players such as Brown and holdout running back Le’Veon Bell in the landscape of building a team.
“We want players to grow into great players, Pro Bowlers, potential Hall of Famers,” Colbert said. “What we’re learning is, it’s a different world. … Social media has changed things. Branding has changed things. We have to do a better job of managing young players as they grow into megastars. That is something we’re learning on the fly. It’s a little more relevant this year because of Le’Veon’s situation and Antonio’s situation. The lesson is maybe we’ve got to catch these guys when they are young.
“Again, coach Tomlin is great at cultivating a young player into a young man and a great professional.”
Colbert found himself as part of a national discussion last week when he referenced Roethlisberger winning a Super Bowl and the team’s other players as “52 kids.”
Colbert said those criticizing him for the wording likely didn’t hear the entirety of his 30-minute interview. He said similar words were used during exits interviews with players after the season and that the same message was relayed to team captains Maurkice Pouncey and Cameron Heyward.
“Anytime I say anything in the media, I’m not afraid to say it to our players,” Colbert said, “and I probably have prior to that.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .