I know that there is a vocal minority out there who hate what Kevin Colbert does as the general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I think that the vast majority at least are able to acknowledge that he is competent at what he does, and he has steered the team to a good amount of success since coming aboard—including their only championships since the 1970s.
But he’s not flawless, and one area in which he (and the Steelers by extension) has struggled has been in adding talent on the 53-man roster via the trade, typically exchanging draft picks for players, but also including some player-for-player movement.
One more piece of the puzzle was solidified yesterday when the Steelers released safety J.J. Wilcox, whom they traded for late last offseason. It didn’t cost them much, to be fair—they gave up a sixth-round pick and got a 2019 seventh-round pick in return—but the team making this move indicates that they misevaluated what they were getting.
Which is a common theme. The Steelers have given up draft picks for Justin Gilbert, Josh Scobee, and Brandon Boykin in the past few years as well, and none of those players ended up spending even a calendar year with them.
Gilbert is a cornerback that they coveted, a former first-round pick, and he was had for just a sixth-rounder. But he hardly had a role for the team in his one season, getting handful of snaps in a couple of games covering tight ends. He was released the next year. Turns out the Browns gave up on him for a reason.
The trade for Scobee was out of desperation after the team already lost two kickers that offseason, but it did help lead to Chris Boswell. The veteran missed half of his kicks over the first four games before being unceremoniously released.
As for Boykin, while they may have traded for him late, the fact of the matter is that Antwon Blake and Ross Cockrell carved out roles ahead of him. The former Eagle did eventually settle into the slot but struggled in his run fits and tackling. Carnell Lake later said in the offseason that he had physical issues, and, well, he’s spent the past two seasons on injured reserve. He hasn’t played since he wore the black and gold.
This isn’t to say that all of his player acquisitions via trade have been bad. I’m pretty optimistic about the future of Vance McDonald, whom they acquired along with a fifth-round pick in exchange for a fourth. That’s not set in stone, but we will learn this year.
They also added cornerback Dashaun Phillips in exchange for a center they just signed as an undrafted free agent. Phillips has NFL experience and was on the practice squad last year. In 2013, they also spun an extra outside linebacker into a backup running back and kick returner in Felix Jones. Not exactly smashing successes, but small victories.