When the 2014 draft is over and done with, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert will recede back into his lair, and we won’t hear much from him until the season is over and the roster rebuilding process starts over in 2015.
For the next few days, however, he’ll be center stage as his offseason duties reach its zenith. He and head coach Mike Tomlin held a pre-draft press conference on Monday, during which he spoke at length, and no doubt we’ll hear from him later today talking about the team’s first-round pick, whomever it might be.
Colbert is not known for controversy; certainly not excitability. Indeed, his comments are often fairly predictable in their reasoned and logical yet mundane and matter-of-fact nature. It’s part of his personality, and what makes him a strong talent evaluator.
Despite that, he regularly finds himself under fire, not from people actually involved in the sport, but rather from the fan base. Perhaps draft picks such as Limas Sweed and the fact that nobody from the 2008 and 2009 draft classes remain on the roster helps add fuel to that fire, but the reality is that, by virtually any measure, Colbert has been among the best in the business during his 15 years with the Steelers.
This is by no means a make-or-break draft for Colbert, nor is it a make-or-break draft for the team as a whole. Every draft is of great importance, or has the potential to be of great importance.
It’s all a matter of getting the right players to respond to the right coaching and to have the money to pay them when the time comes. More often than not, it’s a major struggle to get all those ducks in a row simultaneously.
The team understands that, which is why Colbert is not “on the hot seat”, as many unfounded articles from unqualified people have suggested, after the team that he has helped build went 8-8 for the second time in a row and missed the playoffs again.
That comes straight from team president Art Rooney II, who earlier this offseason said that “Kevin has done a great job”:
I think when you put our record up against other teams in the league, it’s something we’re proud of. Obviously, we’re disappointed in the past two seasons, but we’re very comfortable with Kevin and the job he’s done, his whole approach. I’m very confident in the way he does his job.
Rooney believes in Colbert’s methods and the fact that he sticks to it, and he believes that is what makes him successful, even when it comes to making tough decisions, such as releasing veteran players or negotiating a tight salary cap:
It’s something where you have to make tough decisions every year and certainly is a complicated part of our process. I feel like the bottom line is, we were able to put a competitive team on the field that you had an opportunity to win championships with.
By and large, we were able to do that, that’s the test whether you’re up against the cap or not: What did you do on the field? We’ve had competitive teams on the field and had opportunities. Even last year at 8-8, we felt if we snuck into the playoffs, we had the kind of team in which we could have made noise in the playoffs.
Talent evaluators that work for television networks tend to be remembered for the players that they got right. When you work for an organization and the responsibility falls on you to actually make the picks, you tend to be remembered for the ones you got wrong.
Colbert’s track record of successes is too mundane to be attention-grabbing. It’s sometimes easier to recall the follies, which is why a small but vocal sub-section of the fan base always seems eager to see him go. Fortunately for the Steelers, that doesn’t seem likely to happen in the near future.