LATROBE (93-7 The Fan) – Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert sat down with “The Fan Morning Show” at training camp on Monday. The timing was quite opportune for Colbert because he had something to brag about – a two-year contract extension that he received over the weekend.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Colbert. The Steelers’ defense is in the midst of a major transition, with Dick LeBeau and his longtime players moving on and being supplanted by Keith Butler and a cast of new characters.
“You’ve watched coach Butler work with coach LeBeau for all those years, and you knew Keith was very capable and sooner or later he was going to get his opportunity, the differences that he brings to our defense,” Colbert said. “I’m guessing that most of the defense will be a lot of the same core principles that coach LeBeau practiced, because that’s what Keith learned. But, Keith also will put his own touches on it.”
One of the guys that Butler will be looking to for growth is Cortez Allen. He was expected to be a major contributor last season after receiving a contract extension, but fell off due to a mix of health and performance issues. Colbert isn’t sure if last year was a fluke.
“We don’t know if last year was a flub,” Colbert said. “[Allen] did some really good things in his first and second seasons, and that’s why we were very comfortable in rewarding him with a contract that would keep him here for a period of time. He had a rough preseason, and he lost his confidence. And it’s something that if he regains that confidence… it’s kind of a wait-and-see. He knows it. We’ve talked about it, we talk about it openly. It’s very similar to what Ike Taylor went through… some of Ike’s struggles when he was younger. He reached a point where he lost his confidence, lost his starting job, got it back, and ended up having a nice career. So, we’re confident that Cortez will put the work in to try to get back to that form, but again, it has to happen on the field for us to regain the confidence in him.”
Speaking of confidence, Colbert also addressed his own performance over the past few seasons. He was asked about how he evaluates his recent first-round picks, some of whom have struggled.
“I always judge it on, just, look at where we are in February,” Colbert said. “If we’re not playing, we fail. You can talk about if it was an individual pick, a group of picks, whatever, and we all share in that responsibility, me first and foremost. But I never get caught up in rating a draft class…when we evaluate it, I look at the bottom line – where did we end up? Last year we were 11-5, we were a playoff [team], and we were a first-round knockout. So, that wasn’t a successful season. It’s all reflective on who we have, and it’s reflective on the job I have to do.”
When asked about his biggest concern entering this season, Colbert pointed straight at the back end of the defense.
“I think it’s very obvious that the secondary is something that we need to be a better group of players,” Colbert said. “There’s some talent back there. And whether it can come together in the form that we need, and the production that we need – it remains to be seen… I think defensively up front we’ve got some good players, and we’ve got some, really, potentially, guys that should be good players if they do the right things…the back end is where we need to solidify it…with Cortez [Allen], with Shamarko [Thomas] – we’re relying on some new guys. We have some old heads back there like William Gay that we can rely on, because William’s produced in big games, but we need these young guys to step up and prove that they can.”
The interview can be heard here: