Kevin Colbert emotional after final draft as Steelers GM: ‘It doesn’t mean it’s over’

This weekend marked the final draft for Kevin Colbert as general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A 22-year veteran of the organization, Colbert had spent the last 12 drafts as GM of the black and gold, picking the players who have helped sustain Pittsburgh’s unprecedented success (18 straight seasons at .500 or better). It was announced months prior to this weekend’s proceedings that Colbert would step down after the 2022 NFL Draft, though he’ll likely take on a different role in the organization. Pittsburgh has yet to announce a replacement.

Following Day 3 of the draft on Saturday, during which Colbert and Co. made four selections, the GM got emotional thinking back on his legacy with the club.

“I don’t want to say better than,” Colbert told reporters when asked how he felt he was leaving the Steelers. “I’m proud to say we added to that [trophy] room. It was four trophies. There was four of them when we got here. And you knew the task. You think about DMR [late owner Dan Rooney] and being able to add to that room means a ton. It doesn’t mean it’s over. The next step, I mean we gotta get more than, and we’ll never lose that. But it means a lot.”

Since 2000, when Colbert joined the organization and began running Pittsburgh’s drafts, the Steelers have selected 21 Pro Bowlers, seven first-team All-Pros and a Hall of Famer (Troy Polamalu). Pittsburgh won its fifth and sixth Super Bowl titles during the 2005 and 2008 seasons while Colbert was director of football operations. Since 2011, when Colbert became the first Steelers employee to have the title “general manager,” the team has gone 111-64-2 in the regular season, made the postseason seven times, won four AFC North titles and reached one Super Bowl.

“His contributions to this organization for 22-plus years have been exceptional and needs no endorsement from me,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Saturday. “Quite frankly, it speaks for itself.”

Some of Colbert’s most notable draft picks since rising to general manager include Cameron Heyward (2011, first round), David DeCastro (2012, first round), Le'Veon Bell (2013, second round), T.J. Watt (2017, first round), JuJu Smith-Schuster (2017, second round) and 2021 rookies Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth.

Colbert oversaw the drafting of franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, when he was the third signal-caller taken after Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. Now Colbert is following Big Ben out the door, but not without attempting to replace him. After adding veteran Mitchell Trubisky to the roster in free agency, the Steelers took Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall selection, the first first-round QB taken by Pittsburgh since Roethlisberger.

But Colbert didn’t stop there. As he has been wont to do throughout his career, Colbert drafted high-value receivers in George Pickens at No. 52 and Calvin Austin III at No. 138 and a brother of a current Steelers player in Connor Heyward at No. 208. Then, for the first time since 1968, Pittsburgh took a second quarterback, South Dakota State’s Chris Oladokun, deep in the seventh round, just in case. It was Colbert’s final selection as Steelers GM.

“It’s like a game,” Colbert said. “When a game comes to an end, you appreciate it and you think about it, but you really will reflect on it when it’s quiet and you’re by yourself and it’s like, ‘What a minute, what do I go to do next?’ I don’t know.”

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