| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Colbert: Steelers assured of change

Steelers/NFL Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers Chris Rainey against the Eagles 2012.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Alan Robinson
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 2:32 p.m.

On a typically blustery mid-January day in Pittsburgh, very atypical winds of change were swirling around the Steelers' offices at 3400 South Water St. on the South Side.

Making two dozen references to an 8-8 record he called “unacceptable” and “disappointing,” general manager Kevin Colbert said the Steelers will rework some contracts and terminate others to create enough salary cap space to begin meaningful change.

“You make decisions to sustain or make decisions to change,” Colbert said Wednesday during a half-hour interview. “This year we have to make decisions to change.”

To not change, Colbert said, would be an open invitation to more mediocrity.

“When you're 12-4 and a playoff team, sometimes you get mesmerized by your success and are a little reluctant to change,” Colbert said. “If we don't change the roster that produced 8-8, we should expect the same. It would be silly to expect a better result with the same group of guys.”

Those changes began last week with the waiving of running back Chris Rainey after police in Florida said they charged him for slapping his girlfriend. The move doesn't become official until Feb. 4 but, Colbert said, was made because Rainey “has lost the trust of the organization.”

The Steelers also appear to have lost faith in a group of running backs — Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, Rashard Mendenhall — that produced the franchise's second-worst rushing yardage since 1978.

Mendenhall, who skipped a December game after being told he wouldn't play, is all but certain to leave as a free agent. Colbert called Mendenhall's decision to skip a game “unacceptable.”

As for the others, Colbert said, “Where we were in the running game was indicative of the talent at the position. They're part of the 8-8. ... That group of players didn't produce like we anticipated.”

The Steelers apparently won't try to re-sign their unrestricted free agents — including Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Max Starks, Casey Hampton, Larry Foote and Ramon Foster — until their value has been established on the open market in mid-March.

“We aren't down the road with any of our guys,” he said, adding, “We aren't married to any of these guys.”

They also won't employ a franchise or transition tag as an expensive way to assure a player's return. Franchising Lewis, for example, would cost $10.66 million.

“In my mind, when you're 8-8, I don't think you have too many franchise players,” Colbert said.

While the Steelers are an estimated $12 million over the projected $121 million salary cap, Colbert calls the situation “doable” and not that much different from any other offseason.

“But if you terminate someone, you'd better have a replacement,” he said. “If you extend someone, you have to have confidence that player will see it out. If you restructure, you'd better be careful going forward you don't hurt yourself cap-wise just borrowing against a credit card.”

Colbert also said:

• The Steelers will explore drafting a quarterback above the late rounds to provide a younger backup to Ben Roethlisberger.

• He saw no signs of disagreement between Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

• The Steelers aren't close to the remaining playoff teams, even the Ravens, with whom they played a pair of 3-point games. “We haven't played since the first week of January, and they're still playing.”

• The conservative approach to free agency is something that won't change. “We have to be open to that, but at what cost?” he said. “If we need this player to win, is it then going to cost us these two?”

• He wouldn't theorize why outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley's play fell off. He wouldn't blame weight, saying Woodley has been big — and productive — since high school.

Note: The Steelers signed cornerback Justin King to a one-year contract. The former Gateway High and Penn State star was on the 53-man roster for the final two games but did not play. He was cut by the Colts earlier in the season. He played his first three seasons with the Rams, starting 19 games.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Steelers

  1. Steelers’ reserve quarterbacks vie to secure spot behind Roethlisberger, Gradkowski
  2. Steelers stress improved conditioning in attempt to play past injuries
  3. Inside the Steelers: Rookie linebacker Chickillo continues to excel
  4. Starkey: Garoppolo baffles Steelers
  5. Steelers notebook: Tomlin says Latrobe session won’t differ from normal practice
  6. Memories of Steelers fan from Beaver Falls go beyond simple recall
  7. Inside the Steelers: Williams’ quickness out of backfield evident in drills
  8. Steelers notebook: LB Dupree sits out backs-on–backers drill
  9. Tight ends’ role in Steelers passing game continues to lessen but players remain selfless
  10. Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
  11. Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season