'See where life goes': Kevin Colbert wraps up final draft as Pittsburgh Steelers GM

PITTSBURGH -- Late Saturday afternoon, Kevin Colbert went on the clock for the final time as the Steelers' general manager.

With the No. 241 pick overall in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL draft, Colbert and the Steelers selected South Dakota State quarterback Chris Oladokun.

There weren’t any tears in the draft room, no sentimental moment of reflection as Colbert submitted the pick.

But it wasn’t for lack of trying.

“It's not in his DNA,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said with a chuckle. “We tried to take him there, and he led us -- maybe -- to the doorstep.”

Speaking with the media after he wrapped up his 23rd draft with the Steelers and 10th as the official general manager, Colbert acknowledged the emotions would catch up with him soon, but in that moment, he was taking care of business as usual.

“It'll hit you a little bit later,” Colbert said. “But it's like a game; when the game comes to an end, you appreciate it and you think about it, but you really will reflect on it when it gets quiet and you're by yourself and it's like, oh, wait a minute, what do I got to do next? I don't know.”

But that moment of quiet reflection came sooner than expected. Three questions later, Colbert, who helped build two Super Bowl-winning teams in Pittsburgh, was asked if he liked how he left the franchise.

“I don’t want to say ‘better than,’” he said. “I’m proud that we’ve added to that room.”

His voice started to crack and he bounced the pen in his hand against the table in front of him.

“There was four trophies.”

Tomlin reached over and patted Colbert on the back, comforting his longtime friend as he reflected on his life’s work.

“There were four when we got here. And you knew the task.”

As Colbert stared at the table and tried his best to hold back tears that were coming, Tomlin continued to comfort the general manager.

“It’s all right, brother,” the coach said.

Colbert took a deep breath and continued.

“You think about DMR [late Steelers chairman Dan Rooney], being able to add to that room means a ton,” Colbert said. “It doesn’t mean it’s over. The next step, we’ve got to get more than. We’ll never lose that. But it means a lot.”

Colbert’s right. While his tenure as general manager is over, the Steelers’ organization -- and its mission -- continues. And in his final draft, Colbert did everything he could to leave the Steelers organization primed for success.

Not only did he draft the prospective quarterback of the future in Pitt product Kenny Pickett, the organization’s first first-round quarterback since selecting Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, but he also restocked the wide receiver room with quality players in Georgia wideout George Pickens and Memphis speedster Calvin Austin III. He gave the Steelers more depth on an aging defensive line with Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal and he added another Heyward to the roster -- Connor -- to fill a versatile role in Matt Canada’s offense.

“This was the final draft for general manager Kevin Colbert, and he did a nice job plugging holes,” ESPN senior draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. wrote in his post-draft analysis. “If Pickett becomes a star, Colbert might have set up the Steelers for the next 15 years with this group.”

The fruits of Colbert's labor won’t be fully known for a while, but he delivered players to fill the most glaring holes on the roster, the ones that didn’t get complete answers in free agency.

“His mark and impact on us will continue to be felt, played out in the lives of the men that we selected here today,” Tomlin said.

At the very least, Colbert has to hope this group is better than the first one he helped draft in 2000, when the Steelers selected wide receiver Plaxico Burress with their first-round selection. Only one member of that nine-member draft class made a Pro Bowl: second-round offensive lineman Marvel Smith, who won two Super Bowl rings with the organization. Burress won one with the New York Giants.

With the draft behind him, Colbert will continue in his day-to-day role as general manager until the Steelers select his successor. The second round of interviews is expected to begin in earnest after the Steelers previously interviewed 16 candidates in the first round, including internal candidates Omar Khan and Brandon Hunt.

“We'll move into that process, whatever the next step is, when Art [Rooney] decides to continue that search, and we'll see where it goes and how I may or may not be able to fit into it,” Colbert said. “I just want to make sure that, again -- I've said it before -- whatever the next step is, if I can help and not hinder, great.”

The night after the draft, Colbert tried to continue on like normal, too.

“I'll go back down to the room and make sure we get the free agents all wrapped up and button things up for tonight and go home and spend time with Janice, my wife,” Colbert said Saturday evening. “And see where life goes.”