Speculation began almost immediately after it was discovered last summer that Steelers long-time general manager Kevin Colbert wouldn’t be signing a contract extension and that he would start to take his career year to year.
Was the Pittsburgh native winding things down after 35 years in the business of professional football? He turned 62 last year, and it only made sense that someone who had accomplished so much would want to spend as much time with his family as he could while he was still relatively young.
But almost immediately after that seemingly sincere and genuine announcement came the real speculation: Was Colbert really interested in leaving the Steelers and joining David Tepper, a fellow Pittsburgh native, in the same capacity in Carolina?
The dots, they could easily be connected. Tepper, who bought the Panthers in 2018, was a minority owner of his hometown Steelers right before taking that huge leap.
Imagine how much more money Colbert could make in Carolina. Imagine how much more power he could possibly have without being forced to share so much of it with a veteran and respected head coach like Mike Tomlin.
It also made sense that Tepper, like most owners, a billionaire, would possibly want to throw as much money as possible Colbert’s way as a means to entice him to come work for his new team. After all, billionaires don’t become billionaires by making many stupid decisions, and bringing in someone like Colbert to run the personnel side of your football team would be the complete opposite of stupid.
Besides, all of that, Tomlin curiously signed a one-year extension through 2021 (and not the standard two-year extension); Ben Roethlisberger would presumably be calling it a career after that season was completed—if not sooner.
Therefore, both scenarios—retirement after the 2020 draft (when Colbert’s current deal runs out) or jumping ship to Carolina before or after the 2020 draft—seemed plausible.
Turns out, that speculation was just that—at least for this year. I don’t know what Colbert’s plans are after next year’s draft, but if Wednesday’s news was any indication, he should be heavily involved in helping the Steelers evaluate and select the very best college prospects next winter and spring. He’ll also have a huge say in who the Steelers release and sign in free agency over the next two offseasons. You see, news broke on Wednesday that Colbert signed a one-year contract extension through the 2021 NFL Draft, which means he will spend the foreseeable future helping to shape Pittsburgh’s roster.
The hallmark of the Steelers organization has always been stability. Yeah, sure, it’s nice to shake things up every now and then. But it’s often smart to not do that, especially when you have someone as good at his job as Colbert.
If that man wants to stick around for at least one more season, hey, what an incredible asset. Like a lot of Steelers, 2019 probably wasn’t one of Colbert’s finest years, but also like a lot of Steelers, so much of what went into the team missing the playoffs for a second-straight season was out of his control.
Colbert did so much in 2019 to help shape the Steelers defense—including signing Steven Nelson, drafting Devin Bush and trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick. Those were deals that surely would have paid off in a deep playoff run if not for the season-ending elbow injury suffered by Roethlisbgerger in Week 2.
I’d like to see what Colbert can do in 2020 with a much better hand, provided one of the cards in that hand is a healthy Roethlisberger elbow.
It is true that the Steelers, like most excellent organizations, have a pretty good training program, one that has produced some impressive possible successors to Colbert in people like Omar Khan and Brandon Hunt. But those guys are still employed by the team, meaning one of them will likely be the new general manager in the non-so-distant future.
As for now, Colbert is still around, and he’s still one of the best in the business.
The Steelers are lucky to have him as their general manager for at least one more year.