Is Steelers' GM Kevin Colbert approaching his Waterloo?

Jared Wickerham

Time, the salary cap, and divisional rivals gaining strength have all joined forces to bring pressures to bear against the Steelers unlike any they have faced during Colbert’s reign. And as with Napoleon at Waterloo, how the 2013 campaign turns out could determine how much longer Colbert will rule in the Steeler empire.

The Second Steelers Dynasty is under assault by a coalition of forces arrayed against Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and his troops.

Waterloo was the site in what now is Belgium where the Seventh Coalition forces finally and forever ended the Napoleonic reign in France in 1815, and with it Bonaparte's aspirations of spreading the French concept of a Republic throughout the rest of Continental Europe. Bonaparte rose to power in 1804 as a result of the French Revolution. It was this civil uprising against the entrenched centuries old authoritarian reign of a French monarchy, the suppression of the masses by the aristocracy, and the corrupt authority of the established religions that drove similarly governed countries such as the United Kingdom, Austria, Prussia and Russia to form seven coalition armies over 23 years to oppose the spread of French Republicanism.

Colbert has reigned over the Second Steeler Dynasty since joining the team in 2000. First aligned with (then) head coach Bill Cowher, and later Mike Tomlin, Colbert has been the architect of a football empire that has become renowned, much as Napoleon was for his conduct of warfare, for its highly destructive defenses. Just as Napoleon changed military strategy by the innovative use of mobile artillery, the Steelers' use mobile linebackers and safeties to rip through offensive lines like artillery shells, raining havoc in offensive backfields, destroying quarterbacks and keeping offensive coordinators unsure of from where the next Steelers' salvo would be coming.

But now, after the Steelers have been exiled from their place atop the AFC North by the combined impact of the allied powers of Baltimore, Cincinnati and inexorable mutiny of skills of such Steeler field generals as James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Hines Ward and others, Colbert could now be facing his version of Napoleon's 100 days; that period of time between the French Emperor's escape from exile and his final defeat.

And just as Napoleon did at Waterloo, Colbert faces several daunting foes. The Ravens have fielded a corps of highly successful troops, recently battle tested and victorious on the field of New Orleans. Also aligned against the Steelers are the Cincinnati Bengals who, while not as powerful as the Ravens, nonetheless are dangerous and have proven their worth in previous victories against the Steelers.

As well Colbert faces unfavorable conditions on the field itself. Unable to ascertain the post-free agency makeup of the opposing armies, Colbert must decide what troops he will bring to battle. By March 12, decisions must be made whether the current conscripts such as James Harrison, Ramon Foster, Willie Colon, Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman will be available for deployment, or less battle tested troops such as Jason Worilds, Stevenson Sylvester, Kelvin Beachum and newer unknown faces taken in the upcoming draft will take their places and fill the ranks. Such decisions will be impacted by the decisions Colbert and his chief of staff Omar Khan have previously made in regards to the swamp-like conditions of the Salary Cap.

Having decided to retain for so long the services of battle tested and victorious veterans, and needing to compensate them commensurate with their experience else risk them becoming mercenaries, Colbert has caused the progress of the reserved corps of younger soldiers to become stale as they languish behind the battle lines while Colbert and his commanding general Mike Tomlin place overlong reliance upon troops grown weary from their many campaigns. Compounding the matter is the question whether many of these replacements even possess the talent and fortitude to raise and carry the Steelers' Standard even when they do see action on the field of battle.

No one ever doubted the military brilliance of Napoleon Bonaparte, but not even Napoleon could stand against the ceaseless onslaught of time and attrition that ravaged his forces. And so it came to pass on that fateful Sunday afternoon in 1815 that Napoleon's last 100 days in power came to an end.

Colbert's 100 days will begin on March 12, 2013 when the new League year begins, and will run through June, when final roster decisions must be made in terms of existing players' contracts. The decisions he makes will decide the future of the Steelers' empire, and quite possibly his own.

No one doubts the football brilliance of Kevin Colbert, but not even Colbert can stand against the ceaseless onslaught of time and salary cap attrition that ravage his forces. The final outcome won't occur on Colbert's 100th day, but depending on where the Steelers find themselves at the end of the 2013 season, the period between March and June could become Colberts' Waterloo.

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