Kevin Colbert has been one of the best general managers in the league over the last twenty years. Over that time he has pulled off some spectacular trades. In this post we have narrowed it down to the top five Kevin Colbert trades since he took as general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
5. Antonio Brown to the Raiders:
DETAILS – 2019 3rd and fifth round picks to Pittsburgh for Antonio Brown
At the time of this trade Antonio Brown had done everything in his power to ruin his value in the trade market. His antics that off-season were nothing short of a three ring circus. Despite all this, Kevin Colbert managed to somehow wrangle a third and fifth round pick from the Oakland Raiders for their troubled superstar.
Brown would continue his spiral out of control as a member of the Raiders. Even after signing the brand new multi-million dollar contract he so wanted, Brown’s antics did not stop. He would eventually shoot his way out of Oakland without ever playing a single game there. The Steelers would go on to turn the third round pick they acquired form Oakland into Diontae Johnson.
Side Note: In fairness Kevin Colbert may have waited a year too long to make this move. The warning signs were building with Antonio Brown the previous off-season. Had he been traded then, the Steelers would have certainly acquired multiple picks including two first rounders. We go into greater detail in a post we did in 2018. Is it time to be worried about AB?
4. Martavis Bryant to the Raiders:
DETAILS – 2018 third round pick to Pittsburgh for Martavis Bryant
Believe it or not the Raiders fell for the troubled Steelers receiver trick not once, but twice. A year before the Antonio Brown debacle, the Raiders acquired Martavis Bryant from Pittsburgh for a third round pick. This one wasn’t quite as expensive, but finished about the same for Oakland. Bryant ended up being suspended for eight games his first season with the Raiders. The following season he was suspended indefinitely by the league, and then was eventually released by the Oakland. This is another scenario where Kevin Colbert got significant return for a player who’s career was basically over.
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins:
DETAILS – Minkah Fitzpatrick, 2020 4th, and 2021 7th to Pittsburgh for 2020 1st, 5th, and 2021 6th
Full disclosure we hated this deal when it was first made. To this day we still have reservations over the long term fallout from this deal which we go into greater detail here: The Steelers got Minkah Fitzpatrick, but it cost them Justin Herbert
Having said all that, Kevin Colbert’s gamble certainly paid off. Minkah Fitzpatrick is an elite safety who was the missing piece for the Steelers defense. Ever since his acquisition the defense has been nothing less than outstanding. There’s little question that a late first round pick for an All-Pro caliber safety has turned out to be quite a steal. Just look at the Seahawks who gave up multiple first round picks for a lesser player in Jamal Adams. https://www.seahawks.com/news/seahawks-acquire-all-pro-safety-jamal-adams-in-trade-with-jets
2. Trade up to get Troy Polamalu:
DETAILS – 2003 1st (16) to Pittsburgh for 2003 1st(27), 3rd, and 6th
This trade was an absolute masterpiece by Kevin Colbert. He traded his first, third, and sixth round picks to the Kansas City Chiefs for their first round pick. Moving up from pick 27 to pick 16 netted the Steelers one of the greatest safeties in the history of the game. Troy Polamalu would end up being a six time All-Pro, and a first ballot Hall of Famer. The Chiefs ended up with Larry Johnson with the Steelers first round pick in that draft. Not a bad player, but nowhere near the asset they gave up by not staying put and selecting Polamalu.
1. Antonio Brown and Bryant McFadden from the Cardinals:
DETAILS – Bryant McFadden and a 2010 6th to Pittsburgh for a 2010 5th
Talk about lopsided trades! If this had been just Bryant McFadden for a trade down from the fifth to the sixth round it would have been a steal. Anytime you can acquire a serviceable NFL corner who plays multiple seasons for you in an exchange for late day three picks thats a huge win. But when you factor in the Steelers used Arizona’s sixth round pick to get Antonio Brown…..whew.
The Cardinals moved up to acquire the immortal John Skelton, a quarterback out of Fordham. He went on to start only 17 games in three seasons for the Cardinals. Skelton managed only 15 touchdowns, while throwing 25 interceptions during that time.
Meanwhile the Steelers got four decent seasons out of Bryant McFadden. He had 18 starts, and seven interceptions during his first run in Pittsburgh. That alone would have titled the deal in the Steelers favor. Throw in the little fact that Antonio Brown would have one of the greatest eight year stretches in league history, and this becomes Kevin Colbert’s greatest move as a member of the Steelers front office.
When people talk of all Kevin Colbert’s success during his time in Pittsburgh, this move is one that is often forgotten. What amounted to John Skelton for Antonio Brown and Bryant McFadden should go down as one of the greatest trades in NFL history.