Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II came out last week with the announcement that longtime general manager Kevin Colbert would be stepping down from that role, effective after the 2022 NFL Draft. He confirmed that they were already exploring candidates and would hope to have somebody prepared to step in by the end of the draft.
What Rooney did not say is that Colbert is retiring, as in completely walking away from football. In fact, he acknowledged that that is a separate discussion. “We have left the door open, Kevin and I, to possibly have him fill an ongoing role after the draft”, he told reporters, via Bob Labriola from the team’s website.
While not an exact parallel, it does bear mentioning that the Baltimore Ravens recently had a very prominent transition. There is no one clear heir apparent to the general manager role in Pittsburgh like there was in Baltimore, but it’s plausible it could work out the same.
Ozzie Newsome was the Ravens’ first general manager in 1996, and for a long time, their only general manager before he decided to step down from that role in 2019. But he remains with the Ravens in the role of executive vice president of player personnel, having ceded the general manager role to Eric DeCosta, who had been groomed for years.
As you know, the Steelers have two in-house candidates, who have already interviewed for the position, in Brandon Hunt, who has been the team’s Pro Scouting Coordinator since 2010, and Omar Khan, who has held a variety of Football Administration titles with the team since 2001.
While teams are required to interview at least two external minority candidates for a vacant general manager position, there is a very good chance either Hunt or Khan gets the job. What we don’t know is how likely Colbert may be to decide to retain a position in the front office that takes more of a back seat.
Colbert, 65, is a Pittsburgh native, and has been with the organization since 2000 after working his way up through the BLESTSO scouting system, cutting his teeth as a college scout with the Miami Dolphins. His title in his first decade was Director of Football Operations before being given the General Manager title in 2010. He had Vice President added to his formal title in 2016.
He also has a wife, three adult children, and two grandchildren. At the same time, I don’t think he’s going to move to Florida to spend his retirement years. Pittsburgh is his home, and the Steelers are in his veins. It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if he prefers a transition to a background role over a cold turkey retirement.