PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 2: Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin talk on the sideline against the New York Jets during a game at Acrisure Stadium on October 2, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images)
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a dusty, crusty football operation for far too long. Mike Tomlin has enabled this, as have the powers that be in the organization by keeping him employed for the simple fact that he’s never had a losing season. Know what else Tomlin hasn’t done? Won anything of consequence in the past eight years, and that’s being generous.
A big part of the problem? Tomlin’s lack of imagination when it comes to hiring an offensive coordinator. Todd Haley was the last man Tomlin hired for that OC post who wasn’t already in the building. That was in 2012. You read that right. The alleged year the Mayans predicted the apocalypse. Remember that whole thing? The John Cusack-Roland Emmerich disaster movie and all? That’s how long ago the Steelers hired an exterior offensive play-caller.
Anecdotally, here’s the latest tweet from Haley: A painful reminder that the Steelers passed on Lamar Jackson in the 2018 NFL Draft for safety Terrell Edmunds, whose fifth-year option was declined.
2018 draft class , Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson! Pretty impressive . Let’s see how the chips fall! #NFLPlayoffs2024
That brings me to another big issue for the stagnant Steelers: the quarterback position. You know, the most important, visible and pressure-packed position in all of sports. You better have a f*cking dude there.
Rather than cutting a banged-up, physically declining, non-football junkie in Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh let sentimentality get in the way. Big Ben finished out his tenure as a shell of himself, with a thud of a 42-21 loss to Kansas City in the Wild Card Round to cap it all off. The Steelers’ answer to who would be Roethlisberger’s successor was another extremely insular one: Drafting marginal arm talent University of Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett in the first round of the worst quarterback draft class since probably 2013, when EJ Manuel was the only man to hear his name called on Day 1. That was their version of an answer.
Pickett lost his job to injury late this year in favor of the hot-handed Mason Rudolph. Another in-house option. No shade to how well Rudolph played. It’s just that…ugh.
Forgive the long run-up. It’s necessary context, because before Tomlin took the podium for a press conference on Thursday — the last time he did, he abruptly stormed off following this weekend’s 31-17 loss in Buffalo — I was convinced Rudolph would either be QB1 next year, or Pickett would be unchallenged, or that the two of them would have a competition. Also figured Tomlin would maintain status quo as per usual and roll with either Eddie Faulkner or Mike Sullivan as OC, just like he wrongfully did with Matt Canada amid heavy criticism.
I expected the typical superiority complex, hardo routine from Tomlin. Some version of, “WE’RE GOING TO BE US. THAT’S HOW I PLAN TO FIX THIS.” Then everyone would run along on their merry way.
To my absolute shock — I’m using the word SHOCK here — the scarily wide-eyed Tomlin seems to have snapped back to reality from perpetual catatonic apathy and realized something is wrong! He’s looking outside the building for OC help! He’s pushing Kenny Pickett with a legit QB1 competitor not named Mason Rudolph!
Mike Tomlin will NOT be looking at Eddie Faulkner or Mike Sullivan as the #Steelers' next offensive coordinators:
"Not at this juncture, I'm looking at outside candidates and lining up the pecking order."
WOW. What a 180! This guy is the epitome of deploying continuity for continuity’s sake. So are the Steelers. Somebody must have finally gotten through to those guys in that building.
As a Bengals fan, I don’t like to see this. As an objective appreciator of quality professional football, this is a eureka moment. Seeing Tomlin and Pittsburgh’s defense grind their way to 9-8 records and sneaking into the playoffs until the end of time is so ugly and pointless and stupid. Like, take a big swing or two, y’all! Would it kill you?
Can’t say with any certainty who’s going to be the new OC, nor can I project who the Steelers could bring in to compete with Pickett. They thought Mitchell Trubisky was a viable option for multiple years. Not so. But again, at least they’re admitting they were gravely mistaken! A little humble pie to the face for Tomlin and Co. today. It’s about damn time.
Most of the praise Tomlin heaped on Pickett had to do with his intangibles. Because, you know, throwing 13 TDs and 13 INTs in 25 career games isn’t exactly raging, tangible success.
I listened to the full Mike Tomlin presser and here are honest, (non-click bate) thoughts on it:
1.) That was easily the most upfront I’ve ever seen Tomlin. I loved it. One of the many reasons you can see why players love him.
I’ve thought Tomlin should get a fresh start somewhere else for a while now. But this could be the first time the Steelers actually critically think about an offseason in about 15 years. The problem is, thanks to another middling season and a first-round playoff exit, Pittsburgh is drafting 20th overall. Too far out to nab one of the top QBs. No way they’d trade up that far for one of them.
On the free-agent market, the only two options, in my opinion, are Kirk Cousins or Ryan Tannehill. Unless you could convince Baker Mayfield to leave Tampa to get a crack at Cleveland twice a year. Maybe Gardner Minshew, or even Jameis Winston. I could see Tomlin giving Russell Wilson a shot, too. Justin Fields is an interesting trade consideration.
I’d take just about all those dudes over Kenny P. We’ll see. I’m blown away by Tomlin’s publicly declared intentions of changing course at OC and at least challenging his beloved QB. Now it’s on the front office to execute this strategy. Good luck to them. They have hard-line ways they are set in that will need to be drastically altered to do so.