clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A Letter From the Editor: At what point does character trump talent?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had their share of superstars under Mike Tomlin, but when does character count more than raw talent?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers sure know how to pick offensive superstars, right? Just think about the dynamic playmakers who have been brought in under the Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert era:

Le’Veon Bell
Antonio Brown
Martavis Bryant
James Conner
JuJu Smith-Schuster

I could go on, but you get the picture.

At this point you have to look at the Steelers’ current drama with Antonio Brown requesting a trade, and Le’Veon Bell preparing to hit free agency after sitting out the entire 2018 NFL season. In other words, the Steelers are about to lose two All-Pro players in one offseason.

Whether you believe in Conner and Smith-Schuster as viable backups isn’t important. The question here is whether the organization should start to weigh character almost as high as talent.

There was a reason Martavis Bryant didn’t get drafted until the 4th round of the NFL Draft. He had huge red flags associated with him coming out of Clemson, and those same red flags are why he is currently facing another indefinite suspension.

While they would never admit it, after Bryant was drafted in the 2014 draft, the team started to put an emphasis on character combined with talent. No, they weren’t going to overlook a dynamic playmaker for a choir boy, but character certainly became a very important part of the equation.

With the current drama the team finds themselves in, you couldn’t fault them for putting a precedent on good ol’ fashioned character.

What brought this to my attention were some comments made by the wide receivers at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. Some are oozing with confidence, proclaiming themselves the best receiver in the entire draft. Antonio Brown wasn’t invited to the combine, but even if he was I doubt he would have made such a claim coming out of Central Michigan.

And look how that turned out...

I guess you can truly never tell what will happen to players if/when they make it big and strike it rich with a huge new contract. But at the same time you have to at least try and do some diligence on how players view themselves from an egotistical standpoint.

If you were the general manager of an NFL franchise, would character matter? Or would you simply just hope you can corral the players to keep them on the straight and narrow while being a part of the team?

As for me, it is difficult, but you have try and find an even balance of character and talent. James Conner is the perfect example. He has a tremendous amount of talent and belief in his abilities, but combined with the humility of a young man who has been through so much he is happy just to be in his current situation.

Considering Conner’s dramatic road to the NFL, maybe his situation might be unique, but it just goes to show the fine line teams have to walk to ensure the players they draft will not only stay out of trouble, but will be a part of the team for the long haul.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below...