Ben Roethlisberger is the Pittsburgh Steelers' "unquestioned leader," general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters on Wednesday.
Colbert said the Steelers are Roethlisberger's team, giving him the freedom to publicly criticize teammates if he sees fit.
"He's the elder statesmen and the Super Bowl winner," Colbert said. "If our players were smart, they'd listen to him because he's been there. He's done it. He can tell them, 'No guys, what you're doing is or is not good enough to do this.'"
Following Pittsburgh's Week 12 loss to the Denver Broncos, Roethlisberger said wide receiver Antonio Brown should have run a flatter route on the goal line. Brown has been the subject of trade rumors after missing the regular-season finale against the Bengals due to a reported dispute with Roethlisberger. Brown opted to sit out of practice during the week following the heated argument.
Colbert thinks otherwise, stressing that Roethlisberger's role as team captain is a burden.
"I honestly believe that can be a burden on him more often than he may like to admit, because he has to ... he's got 52 kids under him quite honestly," Colbert said.
"I want them to step up and say, 'Hey Ben, what do I have to do? Can I do this better? What do we have to do to win a Super Bowl?" he added. "I think that once you win it, you've got 53 guys who can say what it took. Right now, he's the only one, so I have no problem with him. He can call me out and that's fine. What he does, I totally respect because I see him too many times win games for us and come through in situations."
Roethlisberger led the league in passing yards in 2018 with 5,129 and recorded a career-high 34 touchdowns. The Steelers are working to extend Roethlisberger's contract, which expires after the 2019 season.