It’s going to be a near impossibility to keep up with the Joneses (Kansas City Chiefs) of the NFL world with an offense that can’t consistently score points. Yet the Pittsburgh Steelers appeared to say they’re content with the status quo by retaining offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Nearly 10 days later, just as tempers started to cool on the topic, team owner and president Art Rooney II rubbed salt in the wound of every Steelers fan with his State of the Steelers address on January 26.
In his annual speech to a select group of Steelers media, Rooney revealed the reason for hanging on to Canada.
“The fact that we were still alive going into the last weekend of the season, that’s a place you want to be,” Rooney said. “And unfortunately, we did dig a hole. But I think the team hung in there, they kept fighting, even though we dug too deep of a hole to really get all the way out of it. We kept fighting down through the end and saw some improvement as the season went on. So there are things to be encouraged about.”
Most don’t view finishing the season 7-2 against sub-.500 teams while only averaging 20.8 points per game as a ringing endorsement of Canada, but Rooney and Tomlin apparently do. And that’s all that matters.
“We saw the improvement in the offense, the improvement in Kenny,” Rooney said. “And I think (coach Mike Tomlin) feels there’s enough to build on there. Starting over you, you never know what you’re gonna get if you start over again. And so we think there’s enough to build on there.”
How long will the “build” take is the key unknown, and will it be with the same offensive architect? With his law background, Rooney will never misspeak or tip his hand in front of the media. He could very well know Pittsburgh plans to move on from Canada when his contract expires after the 2023 season. But you’ll never catch him saying that.
Art Rooney II Impressed By Steelers QB Kenny Pickett
Art Rooney II shared what fans thought true: The Pittsburgh Steelers never intended to play rookie Kenny Pickett in the 2022 season. Still, once head coach Mike Tomlin pulled the trigger, there was no going back.
And Rooney was impressed. “I like what we saw there in terms of key situations that he held us and finished the job,” he said. “And I think that was something that you never know, you don’t know whether a quarterback can do that or not until he does it. So it was good to see that.”
In the Pitt product’s 12 starts, he tallied 2,404 yards and 10 total touchdowns.
Rooney also expects Pickett’s backup and once starter, Mitch Trubisky, to remain with the team next season.
“I expect Mitch will be on the roster next year and be an effective backup if we need him,” he said. “I think he showed that he can be that. We can win with him.”
Trubisky’s quarterback record was 2-3. He carries a cap hit of $10.25 million in 2023, according to Spotrac.
One fan tweeted, “I said it yesterday….the Top Brass of this team is a joke…Art and Mike leading the way. They are so out of touch.”
The Steelers are a Beacon of Stability in the NFL
The hot-button topic of Rooney’s speech centered around consistency and whether that will continue to be the “Steeler Way.”
“I think that the way we’ve done it, we give ourselves a chance to be competitive every year,” he said. “And that means you have a chance to get into the tournament and have a chance to win it. So, I’m not saying that we wouldn’t work hard if we take some chances if we thought we had something that we really could build on. But I don’t see anything changing dramatically in that regard.”
Mark Kaboly of The Athletic offered his take on Rooney’s answer:
“Is making the playoffs the goal or winning the Super Bowl the goal? What I take from this answer is that if they strive to be competitive every year, maybe they can take a chance or two to put them over the top and into position to make a run in the playoffs. It is all about perspective. The Steelers have pretty much gone about their business the past 52 years the same way, and it has produced results. So, as Rooney said, it’s hard to imagine any drastic change in organizational philosophy as long as a Rooney is on top of the masthead.”
The problem seems to be with the recent history of results — or the lack of them. If having 19 consecutive non-losing seasons is your thing, so be it. But there are plenty of fans that are tired of that accolade and want the Steelers to make genuine playoff pushes and strive for the Lombardi Trophy.
The Steelers continue to be a beacon of stability in the NFL, but when will being too stubborn to change catch up with them if it hasn’t already?
Will slow and steady ever win the race in today’s NFL? Steelers fans are still waiting.