Colbert must take blame, but ...

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In what might well be a knee-jerk reaction of historic proportions (in the Pittsburgh sports category), a commenter calling himself Alexander Cunningham posted the following on the Post-Gazette website seconds after the Steelers' 40-23 loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday night.

"Haley has to go." Twenty-one people 'liked' the comment, as of last night.

The Steelers offense, of which Haley is in charge, accumulated 459 yards against the Bears, which is 32 more than the best offense in the NFL gained per game last season; 148 more per game than the Super Bowl champion Steelers of 2008 accumulated; 138 more than the Super Bowl champion Steelers of 2005 accumulated.

This absurdity is brought up to suggest that the 'fire everybody' mentality that pervades almost every aspect of American society today is more than a bit over the top.

No question there's plenty wrong with the Steelers. No question, too, that Haley has been less than stellar in his duties since becoming offensive coordinator in 2012. Unless there is a pick up in the team's offense, his job will be in jeopardy at the end of the season, whether the problems are of his making or not.

The Steelers base problem this season appears to be the one that dogs every losing team: Not enough good players.

The blame for that belongs to the players themselves and to the people who brought those players into the Steelers organization. In the NFL, where trades are rare, when a team almost never dabbles in the high-end, free-agent market, the draft is the place to look when the talent runs dry. And standing front and center in that phase of the Steelers operation is general manager Kevin Colbert.

But whatever the shortcomings may have been in the draft the past few seasons, the suggestions by many that Colbert should be dismissed are more ridiculous than the call to fire Haley. It's understandable that sports are a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. But to lash out at a man who has been so instrumental in the glorious success of the Steelers is beyond stupid. If anyone in Pittsburgh sports has earned a pass, it's Colbert.

This is the man who built the 2005 Super Bowl champions, the man who built the 2008 Super Bowl champions, the man who built the 2010 Super Bowl runner-up. That's three Super Bowl appearances in six years. Those seasons were preceded by a 15-1 record in 2004 and surrounded by other playoff appearances.

To even suggest a man with that resume should be fired, particularly when his team is in the midst of what might be its first losing season in a decade, shows a distinct lack of understanding of how sports franchises run.

Almost no team stays on top consistently. In the salary-cap era, where it's difficult for a team to hold on to all its good players, it's close to impossible. New England has managed it. No other team. The Steelers would be second to New England in the AFC.

It is true that the Steelers have not drafted as well in recent years as they had earlier in Colbert's tenure. Some of that is luck, some of it is drafting skill and some of it talent evaluation.

Let's go back to 2005, the year after Colbert drafted Ben Roethlisberger and Max Starks and two years after he drafted Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor, to review the best players taken each year.

2005: Heath Miller, Bryant McFadden, Trai Essex, Chris Kemoeatu

2006: Santonio Holmes, Willie Colon

2007: Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, William Gay

2008: Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Mundy

2009: Ziggy Hood, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis

2010: Maurkice Pouncey, Jason Worilds, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown.

It's too early to fully comment on 2011 and 2012, but, yes, tackles Marcus Gilbert, 2011, and Mike Adams, 2012, have been disappointments.

There have been some good years -- 2007, 2010 -- and some bad years, with 2008 standing at the top of that list. Two first-round draft choices, Hood and Cam Heyward, 2011, don't look to be the kind of impact players that No. 1s are expected to be.

This is not excusing Colbert -- on the draft or on the team's recent salary cap management. But his record has earned him an opportunity to rectify those mistakes. To be calling for the firing of Kevin Colbert is dead wrong.

bobsmiziksports


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