The Steelers took care of the first part of business as usual by signing coach Mike Tomlin to a contract extension earlier this week.
It carried on a tradition of the Steelers extending the contract of their head coaches with two years remaining on their contract, something the team has done consistently with one exception – Bill Cowher in 2005. We all know how that worked out.
Cowher went into 2006 as a lame-duck coach and the Steelers went 8-8 coming off a Super Bowl win the year before. Cowher was gone at the end of it all.
But the second part of the equation – signing Kevin Colbert to an extension – isn’t forthcoming. That won’t happen, if at all, until sometime after the 2019 season per an agreement between Colbert and Art Rooney II.
“When I did my last extension, it was done with the understanding that when we got to the end of the extension and I was still employed, then most likely we would probably approach it year to year,” Colbert said. “That was a personal request on my part. I’m very grateful that Art is accommodating to that. This is where myself and my family are in our lives. We want to make those decisions on a year-to-year basis from this point forward.”
At 62, Colbert has been with the Steelers since 2000, first as director of football operations, then as general manager. The duties in both of those jobs are the same, making him the longest tenured GM in the NFL. The Steelers have had just one losing season in that time and have gone to three Super Bowls, winning two.
If anyone deserves to go out on his own terms, then it’s Colbert.
And despite not having a long-term deal, Colbert is approaching this as business as usual.
“My schedule this year is as busy as it was in any previous year in terms of college visits, college studies, games and all of that,” Colbert said. “Nothing has changed along those lines. When we’re in meetings with scouts, I’m talking about things we have to do different next year in our meetings. The mindset is about 2019, and 2019 is the priority. I’m not thinking about this as my last year. What we have talked about is that we’ll make that decision at some point when it’s agreeable.”
That could come any time after the 2019 season. Or, it could come after the 2020 draft next April.
One thing Colbert knows is that he probably wouldn’t walk away after a Super Bowl victory.
“When you win, you want to win again,” Colbert said. “Depending on what happens, it could affect that. But I do know that when you win, you want to do it again.”
While Colbert’s status will remain up in the air after this season, he’s glad to have seen Tomlin get his extension. The Steelers gave Tomlin a one-year extension Thursday with an option year. That means Tomlin is under contract through 2021 with an option for 2022.
Colbert bristled at the thought that some people don’t believe an extension was warranted for Tomlin.
“Coach Tomlin is 125-66-1. He’s 1-1 in Super Bowls. He’s never had a losing season,” Colbert said. “Mike Tomlin is a great NFL coach. Anyone that argues that is not paying attention to the facts. The facts are there. I’m very blessed to work with Coach Tomlin, the Rooneys. Having Mike part of that, to me, is a no-brainer.”
- The Steelers were laid back on reporting day. No talk of Super Bowls, only on fixing the issues that derailed the team in 2018.
And the arrivals – save one – were low key. Wide receiver Eli Rogers came riding in on the side of a semi with a hard hat and barbell.
Nobody paid any attention to him.
It probably wasn’t a good idea for Rogers, who isn’t even guaranteed a roster spot.
- Cornerback Artie Burns received an $800,000 roster bonus today. Burns isn’t guaranteed a spot on the roster, either.
People in the know say he’s been having a solid offseason. The Steelers aren’t ready to write off the 2016 first-round draft pick. But, as Tomlin said earlier this year, they’re not exactly counting on Burns, either.
That’s why the Steelers felt it necessary to sign Steven Nelson to a contract that pays him $9 million per year.
Don’t be surprised, however, if Burns gets some first-team snaps in the preseason. If the Steelers believe Burns is one of their top three cornerbacks, then they could try Nelson in the slot with Burns and Joe Haden on the outside in passing situations.
- The Steelers are working on a contract extension with Haden. They almost have to do so.
Haden counts $11.9 million against the salary cap with a base salary of $10 million.
The Steelers are only $985,000 below the cap. Lowering Haden’s cap hit while tacking a couple of years onto his contract would be a prudent move.
Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for DKPittsburghSports.com and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.