With the NFL combine underway, the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t doing anything differently despite their particularly drama-filled offseason. The organization will still continue to try and draft top talent and make them into elite athletes.
A tale as old as time, or at least it feels that way, will bring you back to two years ago when the beginning of the end started to arise with Pittsburgh’s star running back and wide receiver. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell have both made it certain that they do not want to be apart of the Steelers’ organization any longer.
It’s nothing out of the ordinary for players to leave teams but with the talent that the Steelers possess and the successful organization that it is, it struck a nerve or two.
“It does [seem unusual], and it’s happened in the course of two seasons — a season and an offseason,” Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “But really, players go from one mindset to another within a game, from week to week and season to season. That’s not unusual for players to talk. Sometimes it doesn’t become public. Sometimes they’ll come to us with those requests. Usually, when we talk through things everyone has a better understanding. I’m not concerned about that. We’re very comfortable with how we do things, the culture that coach Tomlin has in our locker room and what the organization has always stood for. More players than not appreciate that and understand what we’re trying to do.”
Both Bell and Brown’s situations have been dragged out for too long. Bell started with the franchise tag on him at the end of the 2016 season. He played again under the tag in 2017 and then sat out the entire 2018 season. And to be quite honest, Brown’s story is much too long to summarize. The relationship between Brown and the Steelers organization seemed to be failing behind closed curtains.
Pittsburgh released a statement earlier in the month that Bell will become a free agent in March. For Bell, they’ll receive a compensatory draft pick for him in 2020.
Colbert also commented on Wednesday about going forward after Bell and Brown’s situations. He said that their situations will not change how business is done within the organization. Other teams will guarantee more money up front, whereas the Steelers guarantee some money up front and then more of the money in following years.
“The contractual stuff, we think we’ve been very fair and consistent,” Colbert said. “I think our players appreciate and understand that. If a player doesn’t like a deal they won’t sign it. Once they have signed it that means they have accepted it even though they might say differently. We like the way we try to do business. We think we’re very fair and competitive. We try to keep our own and reward our own for them wanting to be part of us.”
Colbert said Pittsburgh can improve on the way they manage the young players with the ‘star’ potential.
“We want players to grow into great players — Pro Bowlers, potential Hall of Famers. But 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 mega-stars. We’re learning on the fly. It’s more relevant this year because of Le’Veon’s situation and Antonio’s situation. But maybe the lesson is we have to catch these guys when they’re young. And again, coach Tomlin is great at cultivating players and making them into a young man and a great professional.”