The fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are heading for a major transition in the relatively near future is basically unavoidable. After all, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 39 years old and clearly nearing the end of his career, if the 2021 season is not his last year in the league.
While the Steelers have recently locked up head coach Mike Tomlin for another three years through the 2024 season, there is another major figurehead whose time could be coming up as well.
That would be general manager Kevin Colbert, whose tenure with the team likely will only come to an end as a result of his decision to retire. While there are no imminent plans, he is taking things one year at a time.
John Clayton recently appeared on 93.7 The Fan to discuss all things Steelers, and the topic of an impending transition came up. The Fan asked if he expected Colbert to be there for the transition. “I think so,” he said. “He’s gonna be year to year because that’s the way he likes it. But what you wonder about Kevin is, when Ben goes, does he go too? That is a possibility.”
It should be noted that Clayton has been arguably the most public figure to postulate that Roethlisberger will play beyond the 2021 season, which the vast majority of people don’t expect to happen. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently suggested that bringing him back for 2022 likely won’t even be a discussion, barring a deep postseason run.
In the event that the transition hits and Colbert also departs during that time, the question becomes not only who will be the next general manager, but what would that do to Tomlin’s role, and how much will he himself fill the personnel vacuum. Would he try to seize some of that power?
“I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s his game,” Clayton said. “His game is coaching, motivating, trying to get the team ready, trying to get the coaching staff ready. I don’t think that his involvement in personnel is something that he cares about as much.”
I’m not sure I really agree with Clayton with respect to Tomlin’s interest in the personnel aspect of the game, however. The Steelers have a fairly stable drafting process, for example, in which Tomlin and Colbert mutually share responsibilities for decisions about who to draft.
With that said, I also wouldn’t expect him to become like Bill Belichick or Bill O’Brien and assume the dual role of general manager. While he is alleged to have largely taken over the play-calling responsibilities on defense, the task of general manager goes far beyond that. It would require him to divide his attention during the regular season.