The Steelers Could Turn to Their Deep Bench off the Field to Assure Their Continued NFL Success

Already facing the likelihood that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will retire this offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves needing to prepare for another prominent departure in the coming months.

For a franchise that prides itself on continuity in key positions, the possibility of general manager Kevin Colbert stepping down qualifies as disconcerting. Fortunately for ownership, the Steelers might not need to look very far for his replacement.

Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert reportedly will give up his role this spring

Pittsburgh Steelers vice president and general manager Kevin Colbert plans to step down after the 2022 NFL Draft, according to an NFL Network report. Colbert, 64, has held the GM title since 2010 but has been the de facto man in charge since becoming director of football operations in 2000.

His tenure is the definition of success: a 226-124-3 record and league titles in Super Bowl 40 over the Seattle Seahawks and Super Bowl 43 over the Arizona Cardinals.

The timing of his potential exit isn’t a complete surprise because Colbert has been working under one-year contracts in recent years and has suggested his departure would coincide with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. Roethlisberger just completed his 18th NFL regular season after coming to Pittsburgh as the No. 11 overall draft pick in 2004 out of Miami of Ohio.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a deep front-office bench

GM Kevin Colbert of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on Sept. 30, 2019. | Joe Sargent/Getty Images

If Kevin Colbert does depart after more than two decades of handling the Pittsburgh Steelers’ personnel decisions, the team will conduct an extensive search for a new general manager, a process that would include adhering to the Rooney Rule requiring interviews with qualified minority candidates.

The fact that Colbert apparently intends to stick around to conduct the Steelers’ 2022 draft buys the team additional time to look around.

However, the Steelers employ internal candidates who are seemingly qualified to step into Colbert’s role, and there is a decent chance that Colbert would stay on either in his responsibility as a VP or as an adviser. In that respect, the future is clear compared to the decisions the Steelers will have to make regarding how to go about replacing Ben Roethlisberger behind center.

The Steelers have at least two solid contenders for Colbert’s job already on the payroll: vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan and pro scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt.

Khan arrived in Pittsburgh in 2001 after four years working for the New Orleans Saints, and he is widely known in NFL circles. He’s acquired the VP title in 2016. Hunt has the edge in player personnel experience, heading up the Steelers’ pro scouting operation since 2010.

Continuity has been a hallmark of the franchise

The first move for Kevin Colbert’s replacement with the Pittsburgh Steelers should be to buy rather than rent. The Steelers are the NFL’s best of show when it comes to maintaining continuity in key roles.

For starters, ownership has remained in the firm grip of the family since Art Rooney purchased the team in 1936. Rooney ran the front office through 1942, followed by John Holahan. The Steelers have had just five executives holding the general manager responsibilities since 1951, and one of those was a brief run by Dan Rooney in 1969-70.

Famously, that kind of stability extends to the team’s head coaches. Chuck Noll held the job from 1969-91 and was followed by Bill Cowher from 1992-2006. Mike Tomlin has served in the role since 2007 and seemingly can stay until he decides he’s ready to go out on his own terms.

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