LATROBE, Pa. – General Manager Kevin Colbert isn't buying it. Not the part about the Steelers not being prepared for the AFC Divisional Round Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not the part about Mike Tomlin coddling the players. Not the part about the Steelers being undisciplined.
"Honestly, a lot of that was made into stuff that really wasn't a concern," said Colbert during the third day of the team's training camp at Saint Vincent College. "I had no question about our mental preparation, our internal organization, how our team was run. Sure, guys do different things that maybe you don't like, and Coach Tomlin talks to them about no team business being on social media. Coach Tomlin understands (this generation of) players. He understands younger guys. We have to manage a lot of that stuff, but the 'team turmoil' and all that, that was not a concern at all."
Colbert said he believes in the way the team is run, while admitting the procedures are subjected to an annual review.
"We are always critical of who we are, what we do," said Colbert. "We always review it, and we talk about it. But it's not like it's a formal, 'Guys, we have to do this.' No, we always want to be better at what we do on the field, off the field, team attitude. The players have to take some of that on themselves. Look, we can draft them, Coach Tomlin can coach them, but when they are out there (on the field) it's up to them."
Never one to be critical of others without accepting an equal share of the responsibility himself, Colbert admits that the Steelers were lacking in that playoff game against the Jaguars – in all three phases of the play on the field, and in all three elements that are involved in putting a team together. But he refused to buy into the notion that the loss was because of a bad attitude and/or a lack of discipline
"It's the whole thing, but there's no concern whatsoever about our team's attitude, discipline, all that other stuff that gets talked about," said Colbert. "Absolutely no concern, because I am very comfortable working in this organization and with a head coach that people do not understand. They do not see the Coach Tomlin I see in a meeting room; they do not hear Coach Tomlin talk to his team and watch the players pay attention to him as I do. They do not see him in a one-on-one meeting with a player, whether the player is doing something good or bad. We get into their personal lives a lot, because he cares about them as people as much as he does as players, and that's very uncommon for (someone in his position) and the demands that are made on him. He'll go beyond the professional demands to make sure he is doing the best he can for a player personally."
When asked about some of the comments made by players following the loss to the Jaguars that were critical of some of the things Colbert defended, he attributed it to general frustration regarding a loss that eliminated the team from the playoffs and ended the season.
"That's because we lost a critical game, and usually when you lose a game you're not happy, and you are going to look at different things," said Colbert. "No one is happy, and they may pick out certain things (to criticize), but to think that we weren't prepared for that game, I do not agree with it. We got outplayed that day in all three phases. That is the simplicity of it. Whether it was preparation or whatever, I don't believe any of that. It was what happened once we hit the grass in all three phases of the game."
"Did (the personnel department) get the right guys to win that playoff game? No. Did we have the right game plan? No. Did our players play good enough? No. But don't just not give Jacksonville credit. They played a great game and beat us. End of story."