Steelers Change In Philosophy, Part 2: The Colbert Tomlin Years

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Two Philosophies Collide

Dec 16, 2012; Steelers cb Keenan Lewis (23) defends against  Cowboys wr Dez Bryant. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The philosophy of not chasing high priced free agents, even their own players is one philosophy I can’t see the Steelers changing anytime soon. However the money Keenan Lewis received from the Saints (5 years $26 million)  is considered more mid level free agent money and a very reasonable price for a #1 corner which he would have been had he stayed in Pittsburgh. The Steelers apparently felt the price was too high for Lewis.

The loss of Lewis violated another Steelers philosophy which previously had been to keep the younger, just as talented or almost as talented but less expensive player (Lewis) over an aging more costly veteran Ike Taylor.  This break in philosophy hurt the Steelers the most. Because of how free agency was playing out, the Steelers could have cut Ike Taylor a week into free agency and probably could have re-signed both Lewis ($3.015 million  cap charge for Saints in 2013 ) and Taylor for the cap amount of almost $10 million they are charged for Taylor in 2013.

A Philosophy That Needed Changed, Just Used On The Wrong Player

Another philosophy the Steelers have broken is not asking their players to take pay cuts. In previous years because of the stability of the organization the Steelers have been able to get their players to take less or a “hometown discount” during negotiations with players with one year left on their contract. This year they asked James Harrison to take a pay cut with (2) years left on his contract. Previously they would just cut a player rather than ask him to take a pay cut. I never liked the “cut” philosophy as it doesn’t hurt to ask a player to take a pay cut, especially in a seller’s market. But as I wrote last week (5/18/13)  it was perplexing as to why they only asked Harrison to take the pay cut. The philosophy is a good one but they should have used it on more of their expensive aging veterans, not just Harrison. Had they expanded the philosophy and asked Keisel, Polamalu, Taylor, Colon and Harrison all to take pay cuts maybe they could have re-signed Lewis and kept Harrison and Colon (Signed with NY Jets for $1.2 million. Steelers cap charge in 2013 would have been $5.5 million) and freed up even more cap space than by just cutting Harrison.

Draft Philosophy Changing Too?

April 26, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA;  Steelers  Mike Tomlin (left), president Art Rooney II (center) and Jarvis Jones. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The philosophy of taking the best player on the board, trying to trade down and not trading away future draft picks came under scrutiny in the 2013 draft. The Steelers apparently targeted OLB Jarvis Jones and RB Le’Veon Bell and outwardly stated so in after draft reports. This would appear to be true because they passed up several opportunities to trade down in round 1 and gather more draft picks. In round 2 they passed up a player they felt was first round worthy to take the running back they wanted.

San Francisco traded a (3rd) third round pick to swap spots from #31 to Dallas at #18, one pick after Pittsburgh #17. Atlanta swapped first round picks with St. Louis from #30 to #22 giving the Rams their (3rd) third and  (6th) sixth round picks. Minnesota traded back into round #1 at 29 giving New England a (2nd) second, (3rd) third, (4th) fourth and a (7th) seventh pick in the draft which is right around where Pittsburgh would have had another opportunity to pick up even more picks had they made a trade with either San Francisco or Atlanta. In a year where the draft was considered by many to be not spectacular at the top but very deep, Pittsburgh had many holes to fill and had the opportunity to trade down for more draft picks but that was apparently given up for the player they targeted, Jarvis Jones. Lets hope Jones proves them right.

It was also reported that Linebacker’s coach Keith Butler was advocating to draft linebacker Arthur Brown out of Kansas State in round 2 who was reportedly a consideration for Pittsburgh in the first round if Jarvis Jones wasn’t there. Butler who wanted Brown for the much-needed inside linebacker position was overruled because Tomlin wanted Le’Veon Bell. Nowhere in those reports was it mentioned who Colbert wanted. The Steelers also traded a future third round pick in 2014 to draft a third string back up QB project in the 4th round. Trading away a future and higher draft pick has been uncommon in the past 20 or more years especially for a player who possibly may never see the field in a Steelers uniform.

Does The Past Give Steeler Nation Hope For 2013?

Dec 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA; Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) against the Browns. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Both Donahoe and Colbert’s philosophies of running the Steelers organization have been successful. Steeler Nation has much to be thankful for as the Steelers have had immense success since 1992. Colbert’s philosophy has been more successful and less painful than Donahoe’s. However both GM’s should be credited for the elite talent they have constantly brought into the organization over the last 20 plus years. The difference in success between the two may just have come down to one simple factor: If Donahoe had acquired an elite quarterback, the Steelers of the 90′s may have won several Superbowls. Had Colbert not drafted Roethlisberger they wouldn’t have played in any Superbowls in the 2000′s. Now that Tomlin seems to be expanding his influence, it appears a new change in philosophy is arriving in the Colbert/Tomlin era. Can the Steelers get it right for the third straight time?

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Tags: Bill Cowher John Matuszak Kevin Colbert Mike Tomlin North Dallas Forty Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Ricky Bacote

    THEY TRADE A 3RD ROUND PICK TO DRAFT THOMAS

  • Robert Knestrick

    Nice article. You have good points. As an outsider I can see the changes
    as well but I really can not pinpoint who’s the dumb ass running things
    now. In the past it seemed as though the coach was the face of all that
    happened with the Steelers now I see too much of the owner and GM
    stepping into the lime light. Either Tomlin does not have what it takes
    or the other two will not allow it. Either way it’s a major problem.
    They do say, specially in Pittsburgh, that everything starts at the top
    (the owners) and there has also been a change there as well in recent
    years with Art taking on the leadership rule and maybe that is where we
    are see the changes from, either directly or indirectly.