He did everything a general manager needs to do. Kevin Colbert assembled the most talented group of players in the NFL. He plugged all the teams holes during the off-season, and had a team primed for a Super Bowl run. And then it happened again. From terrible coaching, to undisciplined players it all fell apart leading to another humiliating play-off loss. Now the Steelers GM is left wondering what he has to do to get this team back to the Super Bowl.
It started after last season’s crushing loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Instead of holding his coaching staff accountable, Colbert went right to work improving the roster. He began the process by killing the 2017 draft. The team needed a young, athletic outside linebacker…..boom there’s TJ Watt. You need some new blood at wide receiver you say? Have yourself some JuJu Smith-Schuster. Need a backup running back depth at corner? No problem here’s James Conner, Cam Sutton and Brian Allen. That alone would make for one hell of an offseason. But wait there’s more. Still need a veteran corner? How about a former All-Pro in Joe Haden. Tomlin complains his tight ends are “JV”, no problem take Vance McDonald. Depth at defensive line? Let’s get Tyson Alualu for next to nothing. What else could you possibly ask for on this loaded roster??
The one area Colbert failed to upgrade may have been the most important. This coaching staff is sub-par to be generous. In fact it’s down right incompetent on the defensive side of the ball. Keith Butler knew the Jaguars could only do one thing well, and yet the Steelers defense seemed helpless to stop it. Just another, in a long line of examples of Butler’s defense being unprepared for it’s opponent. The head coach doesn’t get a pass on this game either. Mike Tomlin’s in-game coaching continues to be maddening. His decisions during the game continue to haunt the team, even costing them games at times.
So if you’re Kevin Colbert what do you do now? It’s a good bet Todd Haley won’t be back with his contract up and his ongoing friction with Ben Roethlisberger. Haley was the least of the teams concerns when you look at how well the offense played in the second half. Giving the keys to the offense to Randy Fitchner would be a mistake. Do they really want Ben Roehtlisberger to go unchallenged next season? On defense Colbert needs to gut the coaching staff and start over. Anything less would be a colossal mistake on his part. Next he has to look at the head coach. This is where it becomes out of Colbert’s control. Though I’m sure he’s given it some thought, bringing Mike Tomlin back is not Colbert’s decision to make. Ownership would have to sign off on any head coaching move, and that’s just not going to happen.
Unfortunately we are in for more of the same in 2018. The likely path is Butler comes back, and Fitchner takes over the offense. As good of a personnel man as Colbert is, his unwillingness to make the necessary coaching moves will be his downfall. It’s possible that even firing the coordinators is out of his control. If that’s the case, if I were him I’d be throwing around some ultimatums to ownership. For all Colbert’s hard work acquiring talent, the results will never change if this staff is left intact.