General managers can take different forms around the league, but by and large, they tend to be the single person most responsible for putting together both the 90-man roster in the offseason and turning that into a 53-man roster in the regular season—as well as constantly maintaining it in between, and at every other point.
Even teams with head coaches who are prominent decision-makers such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mike Tomlin recognize that at some point, the keys turn over to the general manager. While the team is in-season, the head coach is…head coaching. The general manager? He’s poring over college tape, even attending games, and calling up other general managers, discussing trades—like, say, for maybe a second-year former top-15 draft pick. As a random example pulled out of the ether.
Such a general manager who may give up a first-round pick that ends up being 18th overall in 2020, in exchange for the 11th-overall pick from 2018, 18 games into his career, who turns into an All-Pro safety immediately after you acquire him, may see a slight boost to his reputation, even if he already has a strong one.
That would be the case for Kevin Colbert, the Steelers’ own, who placed third in Gregg Rosenthal’s third-annual ranking of general managers around the league. The only two who placed above him were Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Brett Veach (along with Andy Reid) of the Kansas City Chiefs, and they’re both sitting on recent hardware, so…anyway, this is what he wrote about Colbert:
I don’t know whether to knock Colbert for believing so much in Mason Rudolph or give Colbert credit for putting together a defense able to go 8-8 despite Rudolph and Duck Hodges’ quarterback play. 2019 had to be bittersweet for Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin. Their homegrown defenders finally lived up to their potential as a unit, and a savvy midseason trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick helped transform the Steelers into a title-ready outfit on one side of the ball. The body of work and consistency from Colbert is hard to match.
As far as I’m concerned, the Steelers did not err in trusting in Mason Rudolph. He was a second-year third-round pick coming off of a strong offseason as he earned the backup role. He clearly was in over his head, but they had to find out more about him. Anybody they could have brought in mid-season wouldn’t have known the system, anyway, and would have been available for good reason. They weren’t suddenly going to save the season.