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mesaSteeler
02-17-2009, 10:03 PM
http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news;_ylt=AmsR3lzk5qg_tdf9vYW0b4WT2bYF?slug=ap-steelers-colbertschallenge&prov=ap&type=lgns

Low-key Colbert big key to Steelers’ success

By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer 8 hours, 30 minutes ago


PITTSBURGH (AP)—Kevin Colbert cringed when asked if he’s ever been so mad that he fired off a nasty e-mail to a complaining fan, as former Browns general manager Phil Savage did last season.

If the Pittsburgh Steelers’ director of football operations sent even a friendly response, it might draw attention to him. That’s what Colbert doesn’t want.

“I’ve never sent an e-mail to a fan—ever,” Colbert said. “I don’t do that.”

Despite the Steelers’ visibility and popularity, the man who assembled their two Super Bowl-winning teams in the last four seasons is about as low-key and low-maintenance as it gets.

Colbert keeps such a lower-than-low profile that he usually is not recognized by ardent fans even in Pittsburgh, a city where the Steelers’ punter and long snapper are well-known and a player does not need to be a starter to land a local TV commercial.

Someone like Bill Parcells or Jerry Jones couldn’t go to a Stanley Cup game in their city, slide into seat alongside other fans and watch the game without being pestered for autographs or peppered with questions. Yet Colbert regularly pulled it off during the Penguins’ playoff run last spring.

Popularity? Colbert could not care less. Recognition for what he’s done? No interest in that, either.

“The only credit you want is to say you’re a world champion,” Colbert said before a busy offseason kicks off Wednesday with the NFL draft combine in Indianapolis. “Nothing else matters, honestly. That’s never been a big part of how this organization works. This is about winning, and working toward a common goal.”

Players? Those he wants.

That’s why Colbert faces a significant challenge this offseason in keeping the Steelers at a championship-level following two Super Bowl titles, three AFC championship game appearances and a 56-24 regular-season record the last five seasons.

Numerous core players are signed and in place—Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu among them—but other deals must be done, reworked and re-evaluated. The offensive line needs touching up, the defensive line is aging and linebacker James Harrison, safety Ryan Clark, tight end Heath Miller, right tackle Willie Colon and kicker Jeff Reed may need new contracts.

Colbert must also decide whether to bring back left tackle Marvel Smith, who was injured and missed most of the season, or re-sign Max Starks, who replaced Smith and is the only Steelers offensive lineman to start in both Super Bowl victories. Left guard Chris Kemoeatu can become an unrestricted free agent on Feb. 27.

Colbert doesn’t need any outside attention when there are so many internal decisions to make.

Linebacker Larry Foote—does he stay or go, with one year left on his contract but former first-rounder Lawrence Timmons ready to play? Cornerback Bryant McFadden—does he get a new deal, or does William Gay slide into his place? Defensive end Brett Keisel—still productive at 31, but good enough to rate a new contract? Does Colbert slap the franchise or transition player tag on a player, as he did last season with Starks? Does Colbert make ’09 decisions based on the possibility that 2010 may be an uncapped year?

“We want to keep as many of our own guys as possible, with the understanding we may have to go outside (the organization), either through free agency or the draft,” Colbert said.

Colbert has successfully navigated both paths since taking over in 2000, following a rift in which owner Dan Rooney was forced to pick between Tom Donahoe and coach Bill Cowher after the two stopped communicating. Rooney kept Cowher, and Colbert, a Pittsburgh native who previously worked for the Lions, replaced Donahoe.

Colbert, 52, is the general manager in everything but name; Rooney dislikes the title, so the Steelers go with the less formal designation of director of football operations.

No matter what he’s called, Colbert’s work has been impressive, with only three Donahoe-era players remaining in wide receiver Hines Ward, cornerback Deshea Townsend and defensive end Aaron Smith. Every other Steelers player is a Colbert acquisition.

His first rounders include Polamalu, Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes, Casey Hampton and Timmons. The second rounders include LaMarr Woodley, plus Antwaan Randle El and Kendrell Bell, both of whom were major contributors before signing elsewhere.

Among the Colbert-era free agents are now-retired center Jeff Hartings, Pro Bowl linebacker James Farrior, Clark and center Justin Hartwig.

Harrison and running back Willie Parker, a three-time 1,200-yard rusher, once were undrafted rookie free agents signed by Colbert. So were Reed, one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers, and starting right guard Darnell Stapleton. Harrison went on to become the only undrafted player to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

Harrison also had a record 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl against Arizona. Parker had a record 75-yard touchdown run against Seattle in the February 2006 Super Bowl. Either player could have been signed with any team in the league, yet the Steelers got them.

Credit? The two Super Bowl rings Colbert are all the recognition he wants.

“Believe me, I’m very happy and proud we won this Super Bowl and of being part of what I believe is the best sports organization there is,” Colbert said. “It’s an unbelievable group and we’re all fortunate to be part of it. If we all accomplish that one common goal, everybody gets as much credit as they need.”
Updated 8 hours, 30 minutes ago

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