On Thursday Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II held his 2020 season wrap-up Zoom call, with much of the discussion centering on whether quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be back for an 18th year. In a nutshell, Roethlisberger probably will be back, unless the two parties can’t agree on modifications to his contract, which is set to expire after the 2021 season.
But all the talk about Roethlisberger has overshadowed some of the other notable things Rooney said, including statements about: head coach Mike Tomlin’s status, the shocking 48-37 playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, and his level of satisfaction with the Steelers roster.
Mike Tomlin’s Contract Status
Considering the way the Steelers have faltered down the stretch for three consecutive seasons—and considering the way the Wildcard round playoff loss unfolded against the Browns—one might wonder whether the Steelers would hesitate to extend the contract of head coach Mike Tomlin, which runs through 2021 with a team option for 2022.
It doesn’t sound like it.
“We’ll address Mike’s contract with him as time goes on this offseason,” said Rooney, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN. “I’ll just say I feel comfortable in saying he’ll be our coach into the future.”
As for Tomlin’s performance this year, Rooney seemed to try and rationalize what happened in the playoffs—and deflected blame away from Tomlin and his coaching staff.
“In terms of the job he did, obviously we didn’t finish the way we’d like. The playoff game … it’s hard to analyze exactly what we did there in terms of just turning the ball over that way. I don’t really see how you attribute that to coaching preparation. I think the team went into that game prepared and felt like we were going to win. It wasn’t one of those things where we came out flat or anything like that. You just can’t turn the ball over.”
While it’s true that no NFL team can repeatedly turn the ball over and expect to win—which wasn’t the case 40 years ago—saying the Steelers didn’t come out flat is truly eyebrow-raising. Safe to say, if one gets behind 28-0—in a postseason game, at home, against a lesser team, in the first quarter—that’s pretty much a case study in coming out flat.
Losing five of six games to end the 2020 season—and losing three straight to close out the 2019 campaign at 8-8—could hardly be considered ideal either.
Art Rooney II Would Be Okay With the ‘Same Roster’ in 2021
Meanwhile, one might view Rooney’s comments about the state of the roster as equally unsettling.
“If I had my druthers, I’d say if I could have the same  roster back over in the next year, I’d do it,” he said at one point.
While it’s true that the Steelers have both quality and depth at many positions—and the defense would likely remain among the NFL’s best, assuming no changes and a return to good health—it’s hard to see how anyone would want to bring back the same (aging) offensive line and the same group of running backs, which teamed up to produce the league’s weakest rushing offense (1,351 total yards).
If that weren’t enough, Rooney also weighed in on the beginnings of the succession plan at quarterback.
“In terms of the quarterbacks we have on the roster now, we’ll start with Mason Rudolph,” Rooney told Steelers.com. “We are comfortable that he’s a quarterback who can play in this league and be a starter in this league.”
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