While teams with actual cap space are agreeing (in principle) to big new contracts with players who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in two short days, the Pittsburgh Steelers landed a minor splash of their own, though one I imagine was wholly predictable, announcing that general manager Kevin Colbert agreed to another one-year extension that will carry him through the 2022 NFL Draft.
Colbert has been with the organization for more than two decades now as their lead personnel man, and has been responsible for fielding some of the most competitive teams in the league over the course of that time. While postseason success has inexcusably dipped over the course of the past decade, there is more at play in that than just roster management.
Colbert, now 64, has been functioning on one-year contracts for a short while now, and in recent years has made it clear that it is his intention to take the remainder of his career on a year-to-year basis. He tends to ‘say all the right things’ in public.
According to Aditi Kinkhabwala, he says something slightly different in less public venues. After the one-year extension was announced, the NFL reporter Tweeted that he has communicated privately that “he’ll retire when Ben Roethlisberger does”.
#Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has publicly said he likes being on one-year deals and less-publicly said he’ll retire when Ben Roethlisberger does. Well… the QB is back and so Colbert is too. Team announces the GM has signed a one-year extension, through the 2022 draft.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 15, 2021
Roethlisberger, the team’s franchise quarterback, is entering his 18th season, and perhaps his last, after reworking his contract to provide the team with cap relief. The deal consisted of a $5 million pay cut and a full restructure of his remaining final-year compensation, which was turned into a signing bonus and rolled over into four void years, which automatically void five days after the Super Bowl.
To say the least, there is a fairly good chance that the 2021 season will be Roethlisberger’s last as an NFL player. And should that prove to be the case, it will likely be followed by a good deal of change on the Steelers as well, as changeover of a franchise quarterback often invokes these sorts of moves.
While Colbert has been among the best at what he does, the organization seems to believe that they have multiple qualified candidates in-house that could succeed him, as Eric DeCosta has done for Ozzie Newsome with the Baltimore Ravens, in Brandon Hunt and Phil Kriedler.
Still, earlier this offseason, team president Art Rooney II did say that when the time comes to search for a new general manager, “we’d look at opening up the situation and doing a search”. They would have to, of course. The revision of the Rooney Rule from last year requires that teams interview at least one external minority candidate for any general manager or equivalent position.