Happy belated anniversary to the Steelers General Manager, Kevin Colbert, who on the 15th of February became 14 years a Steeler.
His place amongst a long list of legendary Steelers coaches and front office staff is becoming more and more secure as the years go by, providing an example of consistency and ability that few teams in the NFL can match.
Colbert joined the Steelers in 2000 as the Director of Football operations, and his time with the Steelers has yielded virtually nothing but success. So much so, that in 2010 he was given the title of General Manager. Colbert was, and obviously still remains the only General Manager in Steelers history.
Since assuming his role, the combination of Colbert and then Head Coach Bill Cowher lead to some of the best drafting and free agent acquisitions in the league at that time, not to mention a couple of all time greats.
In his first 7 years Colbert oversaw the selections of Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton, Ben Roethlisberger, Plaxico Burress, Heath Miller and Santonio Holmes, and that was just in the first round of the draft. Ben and Troy are sure fire HOF'ers, but each one of these picks made a huge impact in their own way.
However, what the Colbert/Cowher may be best know for was the ability to squeeze talent and production out of the later rounds of the draft. Aaron Smith, Joey Porter, James Harrisson, Hines Ward and Ike Taylor are just some examples of players drafted in the third round or later (in Harrison's case much later) who were stars for the Steelers over the last decade and a half.
In his first 7 years with the Steelers Colbert was, and indeed still is, the embodiment of the draft and develop philosophy. Those first 7 drafts built the foundations of a team that would win two Super Bowls and go to a third.
The Cowher/Colbert era was not just known for drafting though,acquiring under the radar free agents with the room to grow and develop will always be a part of Colbert's legacy. We need look no further than James Farrior, one of the greatest free agent signings ever, and Ryan Clark, both of whom were stallwarts for the Steelers for years after being signed on the relative cheap from free agency.
Colbert's 14 year anniversary also marks another landmark even, he has now officially been working longer with current Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin than with Bill Cowher. This will be his 8th season under Tomlin, surpassing his 7 with Cowher.
Whilst the same level of personal success for Colbert has not been present during his years with Tomlin, that does not mean the Colbert/Tomlin partnership has been unsuccessful. Under the duo's guidance the team has went to two Super Bowls, and had their own share of victories on draft day.
Lawrence Timmons, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and LaMarr Woodley are some of the highlights of the Tomlin/Colbert era, all major contributors to an AFC championship team, as well as members of a team that between '07-'11 did nothing but win games. In fact the partnership of Colbert and Tomlin over 7 years has never suffered a losing season, a remarkable feat in today's NFL.
Colbert has not had the same sort of success acquiring talented free agents as he did with Cowher, however that can be attributed more to the costs of retaining a championship core as opposed to any sudden deficiency in selecting which players to pursue. Cap space has been tight, and perhaps Colbert deserves praise for being able to dance around and manipulate the Steelers cap issues to field such competetive teams since '07.
It is now, undoubtedly, that Colbert will face his hardest challenge as a member of the Steelers. Back to back 8-8 seasons, and some questionable draft classes in recent memory, is well below what Colbert and Tomlin expect of themselves and the team, and realistically Colbert only has so many chances to get the team back on the straight and narrow.
Ben Roethlisberger's window is closing, and Colbert has had to try and retool a roster on the fly which was still recovering from the inevitable purges of veteran talent and leadership, whilst balancing a precarious cap situation which inevitably comes from sustained success for over a decade.
Howeverm I feel confident in saying that there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, and there is no one else I would rather have steering the ship than the only General Manager in Steelers history.
So happy 14th anniversary Kevin, and here's to many happy returns.