Steelers Nation Unite

Rooney discusses Colbert, Ben & HOF

The timing couldn't have been better for Steelers fans to get the inside scoop on the team than on Wednesday, when just hours after signing General Manager Kevin Colbert to a one-year contract extension, team President Art Rooney II hosted the Steelers Nation Unite Huddle with thousands of fans listening in.

And of course, the first topic discussed was Colbert's extension, which will take him through at least the 2021 NFL Draft.

"We were happy to extend Kevin's contract for another year, which means he will be here helping us prepare for at least two more of our drafts," Rooney shared during the call, which had fans from all over the United States and other countries as well dialing in. "The scouts and Kevin's team are deep in draft preparations as we speak. We will be heading over to the combine in another few weeks. It goes fast. Kevin really keeps us organized and focused and has done a great job. I can't believe it will be his 21st year. It's been a great run with Kevin and we're glad to continue to have him on board."

The other hot, hot topic this offseason for the Steelers is the health of Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger missed the vast majority of the 2019 season with an elbow injury but has said his plan is to be back for the 2020 season.

"So far, so good as far as Ben's progress," said Rooney. "He is still early in his rehab situation. All of the reports we have been getting have been positive. We look forward to him continuing to improve as we work into the spring here."

With Roethlisberger's health still is part of the discussion, everyone wants to know if the team will bring in a veteran quarterback when free agency begins on March 18, and if the Steelers will also bring in a few more weapons for Roethlisberger at wide receiver and running back.

"We are in the process now of preparing for free agency," said Rooney. "The new league year starts on March 18. There is nothing we can do between now and then other than prepare for it. We'll be looking for opportunities if we can to add a player we think can help us, whether it's a wide receiver or running back.

"I am not sure about quarterback, whether we'll have an opportunity to sign anybody. I think we are pretty comfortable with the people we have on the roster right now in terms of Ben and Mason (Rudolph) and I think we will have Duck (Devlin Hodges) and Paxton Lynch participating and competing in camp and things like that this year.

"It's a long process. A lot of pieces to the puzzle that we have to look at to get ready for free agency. We will be working hard on that between now and March 18."

While free agency still has a lot of question marks, there is one thing that is settled. The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020. There are three members of the Steelers organization who are part of the class, Bill Cowher, Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell, and Rooney is excited to celebrate their success.

"It's outstanding. Not very often that you have three people going into the Hall of Fame in one year. In fact, it's kind of rare that there are two people from one team go in in one year," said Rooney. "It doesn't happen very often. It's a special year. The Hall of Fame opened it up for what they call their Centennial Class this year. Coach Cowher and Donnie Shell are coming in with the Centennial Class and of course, Troy was announced on Saturday. We got together with all three of them down in Miami Saturday night. It was a great occasion. I am really happy for those guys. It's going to be an exciting year and I'm looking forward to seeing everybody in Canton and celebrating with some great Steelers people from some important years."

The one disappointment Rooney, and all of Steelers Nation had from the Hall of Fame weekend, is that Alan Faneca isn't joining the trio. Faneca was a finalist for the fifth time, but he didn't make the final cut. Many feel the voters didn't want four Steelers players in the Class of 2020, and Rooney didn't rule that possibility out.

"It's hard to say. I think one of the things that might have hurt Alan was the fact that there were three offensive linemen in this year's group of finalists," said Rooney. "It could have been some voters didn't want to have four Steelers going in in one year. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens.

"The good news is I think Alan came close this year. I think that bodes well for the future. I do think he will get in in the next couple of years. He certainly deserves it. He really is a class act. The league invites all of the finalists to the Super Bowl site. None of them know whether they are going to get in or not. Alan was there. He was disappointed he didn't get it. Nevertheless, he is a class act. We had a little dinner Saturday night for the Hall of Fame guys that got in. We invited Alan and he and his wife came anyway even though he was disappointed.

"He knows we support him, that Steelers fans support him. We are going to stay optimistic that he is going to get in one of these years. We'll all keep our fingers crossed."

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