PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the NFL's most stable franchises for years, opting for small tweaks rather than drastic makeovers. It's a formula that's worked with unparalleled success, as evidenced by the team's record six Super Bowl victories.
Still, it might be time for a change.
Following an 8-8 season that included a second-half collapse, general manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday the gap between the Steelers and the four teams still alive in the playoffs is "significant" and needs to be addressed over the next six months.
Many lineup changes are inevitable this offseason, including a new backup QB for Roethlisberger.
Colbert insists he's not overreacting. Sure, the Steelers could have salvaged a postseason berth with a play here or there. Only they didn't. And he's not sure that's a bad thing.
"When you're 12-4 and a playoff team, you get mesmerized by your success and maybe you're a little reluctant to change," Colbert said. "Not that you don't try to upgrade every year. We were 12-4 (in 2011) but we were eliminated in the first round. In reality we went just one week deeper than we did this year."
It's the kind of downward trend the Steelers have largely avoided over the last two decades, though Pittsburgh has been through a very regular pattern this millennium, missing the playoffs every three years: 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012.
If the pattern holds, the Steelers are locks to play into January and beyond in 2013 and 2014. Colbert doesn't expect it to just happen organically. At a place that goes by the motto "the standard is the standard," it certainly was not met in 2012 by the players on the roster, the coaching staff or the front office.
While there are no plans to make any major moves within the organization - though offensive coordinator Todd Haley and assistant general manager Omar Khan are up for jobs with other teams - expect to see some familiar faces move on during the offseason.
Colbert has some sense of what the free agent market will look like, but the Steelers have rarely made a splashy signing in the spring. They prefer to build through the draft, and Colbert said there are no positions that are off limits. That includes perhaps looking for someone early in the draft to serve as a backup to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who missed three games this season with a sprained shoulder and dislocated rib.
"We won't close the door on any position in any round," Colbert said. "We can't."
After narrowly escaping the franchise's first losing season in nearly a decade, Colbert knows the Steelers need to find some help in the draft. And in free agency. And wherever else they can get a boost.
"It can change very quickly," Colbert said.