NBC Sports Edge, the Artist Formerly Known As Rotoworld, has issued annual General Manager rankings for years now. They’re always well-thought and well-reasoned articles. This year, author Patrick Daugherty holds Steelers’ GM Kevin Colbert in high regards, calling him the second best general manager in football.
In explaining his ranking, Daugherty writes:
“21st-year GM Kevin Colbert assembled an 11-0 roster. You’ll never guess what happened next. Despite last year’s collapse, Colbert’s 21st century team building is rivaled by only one man: Bill Belichick. Colbert’s squads have posted one losing season in 21 years, winning 10-plus games 13 times. The past two seasons have produced 20 total victories despite some of the league’s shakiest quarterback play, speaking to the depth Colbert has assembled.”
There’s no question the sustained success of the rosters Colbert has bit is nothing short of impressive. In a world with high roster turnover thanks to free agency, the salary cap, and just the natural churn of things, being a competitive team for the vast majority of 21 seasons is remarkable. It sure helps to have a franchise, Hall of Fame quarterback but then again, it was Colbert who helped bring Ben Roethlisberger to Pittsburgh. So he gets credit.
But 2021 will be a bigger challenge in what could be Roethlisberger’s — and Colbert’s — final season. Daugherty concludes his explanation with a look toward this season.
“It will be severely tested in 2021, with QB remaining a trouble spot as the offensive line churns. Although there remains an impressive talent base on defense, the cornerback group is a variable. Colbert has always had the answers, but Ben Roethlisberger’s fade under center is his biggest question in more than a decade. There has been scuttlebutt that Colbert may not even try to answer it, retiring at the same time as his signal caller. If he sticks with it, no one will be better equipped to lead the Steelers into their next iteration than Colbert.”
The Steelers also play in arguably the most competitive division too, making another AFC North crown that much more difficult. They don’t enter this season as favorites and most in the national media have them ranked behind the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
The future of the franchise is also in question for the post-Roethlisberger era. Colbert may not be part of writing that next chapter. He’s worked on year-to-year contracts for the past few seasons. He signed another extension in March through the 2022 draft but it’s conceivable he steps down at the end of the 2021 season. It’s very rare for a GM to go through free agency and a draft and then step down. In-house replacements for Colbert include Omar Khan and Brandon Hunt.
Taking the top spot as the league’s best general manager was, of course, the Patriots’ Bill Belichick. That spot is to be debated gives the Patriots’ 2020 struggles without Tom Brady and the team’s poor recent history of drafting. Of returning GMs, the Raiders’ Mike Mayock was ranked last in 26th place. Among the AFC North, the Bengals’ duo of Duke Tobin and owner Mike Brown were listed 22nd, the Browns’ Andrew Berry 17th (that will probably rise by next year), and the Ravens’ Eric DeCosta in 13th place.