Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell not a great fit for Colts' culture

The Colts have the cap room to pursue Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but they might not be a fit from a team-chemistry standpoint. Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts can’t seem to escape being linked to Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell.

On the outside, it’s understandable why Indianapolis is considered a potential landing spot for both Brown and Bell. Indianapolis is looking for another dominant receiver in addition to T.Y. Hilton -- Brown certainly would fit the bill -- and the franchise has more than $100 million in salary-cap space to work with.

That’s why it wasn’t surprising that Bell -- without specifically saying his name -- was brought up to general manager Chris Ballard during the NFL scouting combine on Wednesday.

“I know what you’re getting at here,” Ballard said, laughing. “First thing is, I’m not going to comment on that loaded question you just fired at me in terms of a specific player.”

A significant portion of the media session for Ballard and coach Frank Reich was about the Colts continuing to try to build strong chemistry inside their locker room. Neither Ballard nor Reich mentioned Brown or Bell by name, but they talked a lot about the traits they’re looking for in players on the team. Based on their words, there’s no reason to think that either Steelers star will be joining the Colts this offseason.

“I think we’re a team on the rise, and I think the reason is we got the right players in that locker room,” Reich said. “That culture starts with the guys in that locker room. It’s not open to just anybody. That locker room is not just open to any great player. You gotta be the right guy, the right player. You gotta wanna join the other players on this team on the mission that we’re on, to get to the top of the mountain.”

Reich’s comments aren’t anything new. He just repeated what he and Ballard have continued to say since Reich was hired in February 2018.

The culture inside the locker room played a part in keeping the team on the same page after their 1-5 start to the season.

Ballard didn't mince his words when asked if his relatively young team is ready to take on an outspoken player with a personality that could potentially be a distraction.

“We’re young,” he said. “It’s a young locker room. Do I feel a little better than I did a year ago? Yes. Do I think we’re quite there yet? No.”

Brown, who has made at least 100 catches in each of the past six seasons, was benched for Pittsburgh's Week 17 game, and he hasn't held back on his opinion about the organization.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday that the list of teams interested in Brown has grown, and he also pointed out that they will trade the receiver only if it "benefits" them.

Bell rushed for at least 1,268 yards and had at least 616 yards receiving in each of the past two seasons he played. He's set to become a free agent after sitting out last season because of a contract dispute with the Steelers.

Barring a sudden change of plans, don't expect Ballard and his staff to change their approach on how they attack making their roster better.

No shortcuts. High character. Free-agent spending will be controlled, not out of control. Building through the draft remains a priority because as Ballard pointed out, he likes "having draft picks.”

“We have very strict criteria [for players] we want to bring in,” Ballard said. “We want players that want to get better, want to be great, want to be part of the team, that are willing to sacrifice sometimes their individual stats for the betterment of winning and being a good teammate. If they fit into that criteria, absolutely they’ll fit in. But it is going to be strict criteria, and I think the locker room is looking, at every moment, who you bring in.”