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

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

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as I believe it’s the evolution of the league that has made his way of managing personnel of a football team about as outdated as Dick LeBeau’s defensive schemes: Revolutionary in their heyday, but now the way of the dodo.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’?

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  • Milliken Steeler

    Okay, since we all seem to be going crazy and criticizing everything, let me make sure I understand your point.

    Colbert sucks etc and lets get rid of him right? but i want to move on from this because Im more interested in the Starks comments.

    We ended up getting Brown from Arizona for nothing pretty much and his salary is now the league minimum. We needed depth and if he does anything better that would be a plus right? We seem to have found a good answer at center so far and the line seems to be getting better at least and now we added another piece.

    Have you watched Starks play at all this year? I watched him nearly get Rivers killed and Rivers coughed up the ball after the sack. He followed that up the following week with a THREE SACK allowed performance and was cut loose. The Rams needed lineman and he couldn’t even stick there yet…..he is a guaranteed savior for our line and it was a huge mistake to not bring his play this year back to the Steelers because the past is what counts? That makes no sense to me Craig, Im sorry.

    I also see our team in general about to start reeling off wins. Im not happy we’re 0-4 either however, I can see the improvement as the weeks have went on and we are competing. We have some players back and I just don’t see the need to go postal on the Steelers organization.

    • Dom DiTolla

      How are the Steelers going to start “reeling off wins” when the still have to play the Ravens and Bengals twice, Miami, plus New England and Green Bay on the road?

      The Lions at home will not be a cake-walk, and neither will their two games against Cleveland and their matchup at home against the Bills. Oh, and they have to travel to Oakland as well.

      This team will be lucky to go 5-7 down the stretch.

      • Milliken Steeler

        it’s not about who we’re playing Dom it’s about our team. If we start giving Ben more time and improving on the O-line. If Heath keeps getting better. If we stop missing tackles and making them drive the length of the field.

        That is when our defense shines and missed tackles are fixable. Its not like we just have WR’s blowing by our coverage. Making them drive the entire length of the field will give our Defense more opportunities to create turnovers.

        I believe this bye week is going to help us police up somethings and we will play better. Spaeth is also an excellent blocker and he will help when he comes back in another 3-4 weeks however, we are already improving with Miller and a healthy Johnson playing.

        I don;t think we are as bad as you guys are making us out to be. What is the titans and the Bears records right now? The Bengals beat us 20-10 when we are not playing well and that makes us horrible and inept? The Bengals are suppose to be AFC title contenders Dom.

        I can see us winning again with a few improvements and continued work on our deficiencies

        • Dom DiTolla

          Delusional thoughts from “Fantasy Island.”

          That’s sure a lot of “ifs” this team must solve to get back on the right track as soon as this season. Granted, it would be nice to see those issues fixed. Yet there is almost no way all of those issues are solved, particularly over the next twelve weeks.

          The defense will not succeed or force turnovers if they continue to give up 4-7 yards a clip on first downs. Opposing offenses will take what they can get and carve this defense until the necessary adjustments are made. Plus, the run defense is ranked 29th in the league right now, coupled with their horrible tackling.

          Just because there are glaring problems to solve, doesn’t automatically mean that Pittsburgh’s players and coaches will solve them or have the talent to do so. Also, weren’t the players and coaches supposed to “police up somethings” during the preseason and first four weeks?

          Also, Cincinnati didn’t play particularly well in that game either, so don’t try to sell Pittsburgh’s week two loss to me as the Steelers “handed” the Bengals the game. Dalton was scattershot in the first half and the Bengals should have put up more points had he displayed any accuracy whatsoever.

          I will say that I can see this team winning again consistently as well….in 2015.

        • Craig

          How does the O-line improve? How and when and where does that happen? By simply telling Adams to stop letting pass rushers get by?

          WR’s blowing by coverage – Five words: Jerome Simpson versus Cortez Allen. Though not blowing by, Allen was picked on all day and couldn’t stop Simpson. Do you even hear what you are saying? – keep the opposing team on the field as long as possible to help create a turnover. What? Even if somehow that made sense, the Steelers have ZERO turnovers and they’ve let teams like the Vikings drum up 60,70,80 yard drives.

          Titans are 3-1. So what’s your point? Dom’s spot on about the Bengals – they should have torched the Steelers were Ginger Spice able to hit the broad side of a barn.

          The Steelers need more than just a few improvements. Overhaul from the top down.

          • Milliken Steeler

            The Bengals should have and would have right? Like we should have won a few games but didn’t. That point is moot Craig,

            Cortez just got back to playing. You’re saying you have a crystal ball and know he is going to play bad the rest of the season?

            When you allow a team to make 60 plus yard plays you arent giving your defense the opportunity to make turnovers and that is common sense Craig. You bend but don’t break which keeps you in games.

            Those plays were the result of shabby tackling and anyone can be a negative Nancy and just cry “we suck, fire everyone” instead of looking at the problems and finding solutions to the problems.

            I haven’t been watching and studying football for 2 minutes.

          • Milliken Steeler

            I’m trying to keep this as a great Steeler discussion however, if I’m discounted for just disagreeing on certain point’s when it is very debatable to say the least…ill start asking “Do you realize what your’e saying also” lol

          • Dom DiTolla

            You do realize that defenses like Pittsburgh’s are not in high-turnover probability situations if they “bend” for 4-7 yards on first downs and give the opposing offenses play-calling flexibility and 2nd and 3rd and manageable situations, right?

            That, more than the shabby tackling, is what has haunted this unit the most this fall. The fact that they are giving up “big plays,” which Dick LeBeau’s vaunted defense isn’t supposed to do, is just extra salt in the wound.

            Opposing offenses are content to take what they can get from the soft-zone in the passing game, and solid yardage in the run game, until Pittsburgh’s defense makes the necessary adjustments. Problem is, opposing offenses have started to figure out LeBeau and his schemes.

  • Mike Machi

    Your a complete idiot. Tomlin overruled Colbert to select Worilds over Lee and Mendenhall over Ray rice to name a few. 3 assistant coaches and the best 3 players could not wait to leave Tomlins disaster last year. Tomlin has lost 13 of the last 15 games, is poison on draft day and hired Haley. Fire mike Tomlin Facebook group

  • Gary

    So true….

  • Rick Eger

    Starks never was a good left tackle….he’s lucky his career lasted as long as it did. It would be like bringing back Flozell Adams.