It is Time Someone Holds Kevin Colbert Accountable

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

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There is plenty of blame to throw around for this Pittsburgh Steeler season.  The play calling has been lousy, some players don’t seem focused, and there is very little accountability in press interviews across the organization.  However, while many are placing blame on Mike Tomlin, Matt Canada, Chase Claypool, Devin Bush, and Ben Roethlisberger, among others, nobody wants to hold the actual problem responsible, so I will.  The performance of GM Kevin Colbert has reached an unacceptable level.

The Steelers’ season was doomed from the onset.  There are ways to structure a team around an aging quarterback and an elite defense.  However, Colbert chose instead to ignore all of the glaring weaknesses this team had on offense.

The defensive struggles for the Steelers this season could not be as foreseen.  Joe Haden’s ongoing injury issues and Stephon Tuitt being unavailable for the entire season was not predictable.  Also, nobody knew it would take Devin Bush this long to fully recover from last season’s knee injury.  Therefore, defensive issues can be overlooked in assessing Colbert’s job performance.

However, the reasons in which the offense is struggling are years in the making.  The biggest problem with the Steelers this season is how poorly their offensive line is performing.  Yes, Diontae Johnson, I’m criticizing the O-line even though I could not step in and do any better.  I am not a professional football player, nor am I paid like one.  The O-line for the Steelers has been terrible.

The O-line failing to perform leads to conservative play calling.  Offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, is constantly dialing up short pass plays in order to protect his 39-year-old quarterback.  Deeper pass plays take longer to develop and the line has shown the inability to provide this extra time.  This has also nullified any deep playmaking abilities that Chase Claypool and James Washington possess. 

Protecting Roethlisberger hasn't just become a priority because of his age, but also because Colbert has provided no back up plan at the quarterback position.  As Ben ponders this as potentially his last season, the Steelers are left without a suitable backup for the aging future hall of famer. 

The inability of the O-line to protect Ben continues with their inability to open holes for 1st round running back, Najee Harris.  Although Harris ranks 5th in the league in total yards, he ranks 42nd in the league in yards per carry.  The punishment he is taking this season is reason enough to never draft a running back in the 1st round even with the best of offensive lines.  It becomes even more apparent when he’s running behind a terrible one.

Unfortunately, many of the highest earners on the team make up this offensive line.  Trai Turner and Chuks Okorafor account for over $5 million against the salary cap, and Zach Banner has a cap hit this season of $2.8 million.  Remember Zach Banner?  The lineman who started one game in his career, earning himself a 2-year contract, before not even having the ability to break into this porous starting O-line.  That Zach Banner. 

However, just below Trai Turner, making up a $2.9 million cap hit is fullback Derek Watt.  Surely a fullback getting paid that much was brought in to protect the quarterback or open holes for the running back.  Nope.  The third highest paid fullback in the league has appeared in less than 10 offensive snaps every single game this season.  His most, nine, made up 14% of the offensive snaps against Denver.  In losses against the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals, Watt appeared in just two offensive snaps each.  But at least he's good on special teams.

This season will most likely end with the Pittsburgh Steelers missing the playoffs.  They will extend their postseason winless streak to five straight seasons.  Meanwhile, their starting quarterback is pondering retirement and their elite defense is giving up 24+ points per game. 

Going into the 2022 season, the Steelers will potentially have no answer at quarterback, the worst offensive line in the league, and a running back that can’t find any room to run.  All this while having dead cap money invested in players that barely see the field.  

The Steelers are in one of the worst states they have been since the 1980’s and the GM must be held accountable.  Kevin Colbert’s job performance has been simply unacceptable the last five seasons.  While many yell and scream about Mike Tomlin, it’s time to hold the right man accountable.  Colbert’s time in Pittsburgh should be over.