Kevin Colbert’s Fall From Grace, And An Apology To Former Steelers Max Starks


Kevin Colbert’s fall from grace has come suddenly and surprisingly to many. Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

For the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013, there aren’t enough fingers to plug all the holes in the dam.  And, quite frankly, there are chunks that are completely missing.  Village of Steeler Nation, you’re on notice – you all are about to be swept away  in the muck if things don’t change.  Based on the choices made by the Steelers coaches and brass, I’m starting to wonder if they are throwing straw at the dam instead of boulders.

The latest piece of straw – and potentially the one to break the camel’s back – is the trade of LT Levi Brown from the Arizona Cardinals to the Steelers.

Tight for cap space (as always) the Steelers have heavily relied on the draft of late to restock players.  It’s always bit of a gamble by the Steelers because the team is putting all their football success eggs in one basket.  Ask Steeler Nation how the last few drafts and subsequent seasons have gone, and many will cringe at the “Colbert Effect”: Signing the wrong players to long term deals and releasing other vets, restructuring the contracts that exist, push the debt into a bigger pile for the future, and hope to God that at least four to five draft picks become future starters.

Yes, Kevin Colbert was once heralded as one of the greatest GM’s in the NFL.  His tenure reaped many years of playoffs, two of three Super Bowl wins, and lots of Pro-Bowl caliber players.  But is the magic gone?  I wouldn’t say Colbert’s magic is gone as much as I believe it’s the evolution of the league that has made his way of managing personnel of a football team about as outdated as Dick LeBeau’s defensive schemes: Revolutionary in their heyday, but now the way of the dodo.  The league is very different now than what it was 10 years ago:  The physique of the athletes, safety, philosophy, and the number of decimal places to the right the economics have shifted.  And when one starts to fall from grace, they start to become desperate.  That’s exactly what has happened with the Brown acquisition.

So what does any of this have to do with Max Starks?  Call it pride, call it blindness, call it whatever you want.  The fact is, the Steelers (and more specifically Colbert) missed a golden opportunity to bring comfort, familiarity, and solid execution to a situation that is quickly spiraling out of control.  Let’s recap the Max Starks ‘situation.’

Max Starks presently sits as a free agent while the Steelers are reeling from offensive line woes. Credit: Jody Gomez-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers predictably released LT Max Starks during the 2013 off-season.  Max sat around for a while while the Steelers desperately tried to make some square pegs fit into a round hole in the name of Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert and the draft.  Camp came and went, and still no Max Starks signing as insurance.  Max Starks was finally signed with the Chargers.  He was released in the final rounds of roster cuts, and no one really knows why the offensive line hungry Chargers released the vet.  Starks signed a one year deal with the Rams  (as insurance mind you) in mid-September but was released on October 1st to make room for Jo-Lonn Dubar – one day before the Levi Brown trade.

The fact that the Steelers once again passed on Starks a day prior to acquiring Brown for a league minimum wage and a future draft pick is simply baffling.  Starks has proved time and time again that he is still fully capable of protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side.  Even if he’s not entirely at 100%, I’m sure he is better than the turnstile that is Mike Adams.

I think I speak for all of Steeler Nation when I address Max Starks by saying:  ‘Max, buddy.  I’m so sorry for this crazy series of events that has left you as a free agent when you should be donning a black & gold uniform.  You should have never left this team.  I realize that you think you are starter and that leaving Pittsburgh was partly because you wanted to start instead of being a reliable backup.  I wish you could have seen, as the rest of us do that eventually you would have taken over.  I wish you could have seen as most of us did that Mike Adams was never going to be the solution at left tackle, and that by either through injury or just plain ol’ poor execution you would be lining up to protect your good friend, Big Ben.  What’s even more salt in the wound is that you were passed up for a a tackle who has more questions than answers at the moment.  I don’t know if it was through blindness or pride that the Steelers brass decided to let you walk and seemingly go out of their way to keep you off their sideline, but I’m sorry that they did.  I don’t know if we’ll ever see you in a Steelers uniform again.’

In a ‘what have you done for me lately’ league Colbert has done more damage than good and has set this team back years.  Sure, he’s delivered three Super Bowl appearances and two championships.  But, there’s so much money that is due to players in the next year or two that the NFL would have to increase the salary cap by tens of millions to afford it all.  The detriment of this team and therefore, the rather long fall from grace of Kevin Colbert, may seem like a sudden turn of events.  However, it’s been years in the making.

Posing the same question in my post about the Steelers lacking any bit of ‘nasty’: Who’s the savior for the Pittsburgh Steelers?  Who can negate the ‘Colbert Effect’?