For the final offseason, Kevin Colbert is part of spring-time general manager rankings. Retiring after the draft, Colbert sat on the podium one final time in NFL.com’s ranking of the best (and worst) GMs in football. Author Gregg Rosenthal named Colbert the third best GM in the league, writing:
“Few GMs did a better, steadier job drafting players over the previous few decades, re-signing the best ones and knowing when to say goodbye. Pittsburgh rarely panicked in free agency, yet didn’t ignore value, hopping on proven players like Joe Haden when they suddenly became available. His best picks, from Ben Roethlisberger to David DeCastro to T.J. Watt, were made after patiently letting the board come to him.”
Hired to lead the Steelers in 2000, Pittsburgh’s been regarded as one of the best and most stable front offices in football. That’s in large part thanks to their ability to draft in all levels of the draft. As Rosenthal mentions, hitting big on first-round picks like Ben Roethlisberger, David DeCastro, TJ Watt along with other names like Maurkice Pouncey, Lawrence Timmons, Heath Miller, and Troy Polamalu.
Put it this way. Three of Colbert’s 22 first-round picks are or will end up in the Hall of Fame: Polamalu, Roethlisberger, and Watt. That’s nearly 15% of his selections and doesn’t even consider names like Maurkice Pouncey and Cam Heyward, who will have an argument when their time comes. Few teams have had the level of consistent first-round success as Colbert has while also hitting on some Day Three gems, none bigger than WR Antonio Brown, a sixth round pick in 2010.
Colbert was able to rebuild and keep their offensive line with homegrown names like Pouncey, DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, and a UDFA gem in Ramon Foster while the team developed Alejandro Villanueva into a franchise left tackle. And he made key free agent signings, even if the team was rarely big players there. James Farrior and Ryan Clark are super underrated adds and Joe Haden was a solid signing, too.
For stretches, Pittsburgh’s lack of postseason success has been disappointing and the drought they had to end Roethlisberger’s career, no playoff wins since 2016, is hard to stomach. But from a roster-construction standpoint, Colbert’s done an excellent job start to finish.
The only two names ranked ahead of him were the Bills’ Brandon Beane and the Rams’ Les Snead. Rounding out the top five were Green Bay’s Brian Gutekunst and Tampa Bay’s Jason Licht. Surprisingly, Bill Belichick fell all the way down to the tenth spot. Bringing up the rear were the Jets’ Joe Douglas and Washington’s Martin Mayhew, though ten GMs were deemed “too new” to receive consideration on the list.