Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked a lot of questions at his press conference on Wednesday afternoon, and he didn’t have many concrete answers. But those answers did provide clues as to what he might be thinking, at least in terms of select issues.
Tomlin started by noting that he is “still experiencing the disappointment associated with our last performance,” referring, of course, to Sunday night’s Wildcard playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns and an unexpectedly early exit from the 2020 playoffs.
He went on to admit that “not a lot of work has transpired in terms of bringing some of those thoughts and feelings to fruition,” in part because the team’s facility was closed on Monday (after a player tested positive for COVID-19).
“Before you proceed, first you have to assess and evaluate and summarize the things that have transpired,” he advised.
Yet he was adamant that change is coming.
“We better make some changes in terms of the things we do. We better look at every aspect of it—schematics, personnel, approach to business….” He included the team’s running game, which finished 2020 with the fewest rushing yards in the NFL (1,351) and a league-low yards per carry (3.6).
“When you’re dead last in anything, the problem is ‘all of the above’,” he deadpanned.
Mike Tomlin on Recent Late-Season Collapses
As for the late-season collapses that have plagued the Steelers for the last three years, he said: “It is something that I am researching and working to identify and to make necessary changes to ensure that we aren’t having similar conversations going forward.
Pittsburgh lost five of its last six games in 2020, its final three games in 2019, and four of its last six in 2018.
“I’m not going to maintain status quo and hope that the outcome changes. That would be the definition of insanity,” he quipped.
Tomlin on QBs Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph
As for the team’s personnel, Tomlin indicated that the Steelers haven’t made any decisions yet. But it didn’t sound as if he’s ready to push quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out the door.
“I can’t say enough about his performance this year,” said Tomlin,
reminding everyone that Roethlisberger was attempting to return from a career-threatening elbow injury that left insiders with “a high level of concern” about his health and ability to perform.
On the other hand, Tomlin didn’t make it seem a foregone conclusion that the soon-to-be 39-year-old will be back for an 18th NFL season.
“I think it’s reasonable to assume that there’s a chance that he’s going to be back, certainly,” said Tomlin.
If Big Ben is not back next year, would Tomlin be comfortable with backup Mason Rudolph as his starter in 2021?
Tomlin wasn’t willing to go that far, saying, “I thought [Rudolph] displayed that he took a step in growth and development with his performance, even though it was a small sample size. I would imagine he’s going to continue with that growth and development.”
Tomlin on the Kevin Colbert Rumors
Last but not least, Tomlin was asked about rumors that General Manager Kevin Colbert has been offered another job, alluding to a report that Colbert was ‘close’ to accepting an offer from the Detroit Lions.
“I have worked with Kevin for 14 years,” replied Tomlin. “We have an awesome working relationship. We communicate each and every day, multiple times a day. We have communicated today…. I know next to nothing about the rumors of things that you mentioned.”
Indeed, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette seemingly put those rumors to bed when he indicated that the Lions have not requested permission to talk to Colbert, as would be required.
Colbert’s current contract expires shortly after the 2021 NFL Draft.
A recent report from Jason La Confora of CBS Sports indicates that Colbert has already decided to return to the Steelers for another season. Meanwhile, former Steelers executive Doug Whaley has stated his belief that Colbert is planning to retire soon, and that he will time his retirement to coincide with that of Ben Roethlisberger.
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