In what should be a reassuring sign to Steeler Nation, Colbert cuts to the chase in a critical but honest assessment of the Steelers' 2012 season. While the Steelers' fans may be reassured by his words that he has some definite ideas in mind, many current players should be concerned.
As posted by ESPN, the Associated Press reports that yesterday the Steelers’ General Manager Kevin Colbert spoke on many of the issues that Steeler Nation watched unfold throughout the team's mediocre 8-8 season. You can read the entire article here.
On personnel issues to be addressed in the off season, Colbert said:
"If we don't change 8-8, if we don't change the roster that produced 8-8, we'd be silly to expect a better result if we've got the same group of guys," he said. "We can't box ourselves in and limit what we potentially could do."
In what must be seen as a sharp rebuke from a normally staid speaking Colbert when asked about the Steelers' plans for its many impending free agents under a projected salary cap of $121 million, which the Steelers' current roster grossly exceeds, Colbert said: "When you're 8-8, I don't think we had too many franchise players."
It doesn't take an acolyte of the Steelers' salary cap wizard Omar Khan to realize that this comment could, and should, apply foremost to wide receiver Mike Wallace who, despite only missing one game this past season, nonetheless only mentally participated part-time in the fifteen games he dressed for in what should have been his showcase season before hitting the free agency market.
Colbert's words should also send a message to several of the highly paid players on both offense and defense that there are no sacred cows; it can be easily surmised that the Steelers are going to question the value they received this past season from such highly paid players as RG Willie Colon, OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, and possibly even S Troy Polamalu. Each of these players missed considerable time due to injury, and this season was not the first time for any of them doing so.
These words also portend a harsh reality check for many of the younger Steelers coming off their rookie contracts; for the team to improve its record next season while getting itself under the salary cap, these players are going to have to have realistic expectations if they want to continue to be members of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Colbert went on to say on this topic that no position was "off limits" as to what positions the Steelers might look for in the upcoming draft. The article speculated that this could include a serious investment in a backup quarterback.
On the various "character issues" involving such players as rookies Chris Rainey and Alameda Ta'amu, Colbert simply said that Rainey had lost the Steelers' trust and that "We understood the risk and took it and quite honestly in a couple of situations it didn't work out".
In regards to the seemingly never ending spate of injuries to key personnel both this season and last, Colbert acknowledged that in 2012 the Steelers ranked 11th in the league in total games missed by players due to injury, but he refused to blame their failure to reach the playoffs on that; he referenced four playoff teams that had players who missed more time than the Steelers, but confirmed that the team's staff was meeting Thursday to discuss strategies to address the situation.
In words that could be referencing a lackadaisical attitude on the part of many Steelers such as cornerback Curtis Brown, Colbert was quite explicit in his assessment of the 2012: he said that there was a "significant gap" between the 2012 Steelers and the four teams remaining in the playoffs. "Are we close to those teams? No, because we haven't played since the first week of January,"
He went on to say: "When you're 12-4 and a playoff team, you get mesmerized by your success and maybe you're a little reluctant to change, not that you don't try to upgrade every year. We were 12-4 (in 2011) but we were eliminated in the first round. In reality we went just one week deeper than we did this year."
It is certain that there is much more that Colbert wants to say, and should say, but that will only be spoken behind closed doors in the team's South Side facility. What is also certain is that such blunt words spoken by a GM who is normally circumspect in his dealings with the media will require no Rosetta Stone to be understood by the current roster of players, or at least those who remain employed by the Steelers when OTAs begin in the spring.