PITTSBURGH — Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert will step down after the 2022 NFL draft in April, team owner Art Rooney II said Friday.
“We have left the door open, Kevin and I, to possibly have him fill an ongoing role after the draft,” Rooney said. “We will be conducting a search for a new GM starting immediately. Probably won’t make a hire until after the draft. We will be interviewing people. We’ve already interviewed two of our in-house candidates: Omar Khan and Brandon Hunt.”
Colbert’s imminent departure will leave coach Mike Tomlin as the lone standing member of the longtime nucleus of the Steelers. Tomlin signed a three-year extension with the team last year, and Rooney said Friday that Tomlin’s role will not expand or change under a new general manager.
“I don’t expect to make dramatic changes in terms of those responsibilities, coach versus GM,” Rooney II said. “I think it’s worked well, and we’re not really trying to make a big change there.”
Rooney said Colbert will hold his “normal role” through the draft and, because of that, that it’s not critical for the Steelers to have their next general manager on board before the draft.
Colbert is going on with business as usual in draft preparation, Tomlin said last week.
“My plan and our plan is to proceed in the short term like we always do,” Tomlin said. “He’s already bringing me up to speed with draft availability and value in that space and planning about how we’re going to move. … We have big-time continuity and understanding within our relationship, and it’s been great. It needs to be great as we get into this offseason work.”
Colbert has worked on year-to-year deals since the end of the 2019 season and often maintained he would be around as long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger announced his retirement after 18 seasons on Thursday.
Like Tomlin, Rooney said the organization is looking at all options to replace Roethlisberger, including in-house candidates Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph. Even with the change at general manager, Rooney doesn’t anticipate being more involved in the quarterback search than in previous player searches and evaluations.
“You have to take advantage of whatever opportunity you have to get the best quarterback you can find,” Rooney said. “And you don’t always have the luxury of saying, ‘I want A, B and C and go to the grocery store and order a quarterback.’ We’ll evaluate all the options we have.
“Certainly, mobile quarterbacks are the wave of the future, and having mobility at that position is something that would be desirable. The other thing that’s desirable is somebody that can read a defense and complete a pass downfield. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that you have to put together, and you don’t always get someone that meets every criteria you might want. You just have to get the best player, plug them in, put the best players around them and try to put everybody in position to be successful.”
Though the Steelers often prefer to keep hires in-house, Rooney said the organization would evaluate outside candidates for the general manager position, along with other openings on staff, such as defensive coordinator.
“We’re going to fill these positions with the best people we can find for the job, whether they’re internal or external,” Rooney said. “We’re certainly not afraid to bring somebody in from the outside if need be. When we hired Coach Tomlin, we had some good internal candidates in that round and wound up hiring somebody from the outside. We just don’t try to get too much of a narrow focus and really try to get the best person for the job wherever they’re coming from.”
Internally, Khan, the team’s vice president of football operations and business administration, and Hunt, the pro scouting coordinator, are top candidates for the job. Both have interviewed for other general manager vacancies around the league this offseason. Khan has been with the Steelers for 21 years, while Hunt has been with the team for 14.
Colbert, who has been with the Steelers for 22 seasons, took over as general manager in 2010 after a decade as the director of football operations. He has been with the team for two Super Bowl titles and three AFC championships.
He served as the pro scouting director for the Detroit Lions from 1990 to 1999.