Kevin Colbert was brought in for the 2000 season from the Detroit Lions, where he served as their Pro Scouting Director for a decade, to act as the Director of Football Operations for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Director of Football Operations was a title equivalent to General Manager for the Steelers prior to their formally naming Colbert their first General Manager in franchise history in 2010. He was named Vice President/General Manager in 2016.
He came to Pittsburgh—a Pittsburgh native himself—to replace another Pittsburgh-area native, Tom Donahoe, who was the Director of Football Operations from 1991 to 1999. During that 1999 season, the Steelers went 6-10, missing the playoffs for the second year in a row, with the second losing season in a row, the first time they had consecutive losing seasons since 1985-6.
That was the last time that the Steelers have had a selection in the top 10 of the NFL Draft, and according to ESPN and Jeremy Fowler, they are the only team in the NFL during the subsequent span between 2001 to the present day to have no picks that high in the draft. Every other team has at least had one. 29 of the 31 other teams have had at least two picks in the top 10 since that time.
Model of consistency: Steelers are NFL’s only team w/out a top-10 draft pick since 2001. Twenty-nine NFL teams have had multiple top-10 picks. Pittsburgh selected Plaxico Burress No. 8 overall in 2000. (Numbers verified by @ESPNStatsInfo).
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) February 22, 2018
While this also speaks to the fact that the Steelers do very little maneuvering—and no particularly high-profile maneuvering—the primary reason that they have been so frequently distant from the top portions of the draft is because they have been among the most consistent teams in the NFL, avoiding having such seasons that enable them to draft that high.
The only losing season that they have posted since 2000, during Colbert’s first year in Pittsburgh, was during the 2003 season, when a Tommy Maddox-led team finished 6-10. This awarded them the 11th-overall pick in the draft, which admittedly is extremely close to the top 10, but it was this pick that is primarily responsible for allowing them to avoid picking so high.
Of course, that’s because they used that selection on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who likely enters the Hall of Fame in his native Ohio five years after he retires. During his 14 seasons, they have never posted a losing record, and have only gone 8-8 three times, with injuries to himself usually factoring into those struggles.
The most recent top-10 draft pick the Steelers have made, back in 2000, was for wide receiver Plaxico Burress, the eighth-overall selection that year. The highest picks that they have had since then have been 11 (2004 – Ben Roethlisberger), 15 (2007 – Lawrence Timmons; 2014 – Ryan Shazier), 16 (2003 – Troy Polamalu), 17 (2013 – Jarvis Jones), 18 (2010 – Maurkice Pouncey), and 19 (2001 – Casey Hampton).
Those are the only selections the Steelers have made in the top 20 picks of all drafts since 2000. Just eight players in the top 20 in 18 drafts. More than half the time, they have been picking among the final 12 picks in the first round.