The Steelers’ Mitchell Trubisky-quarterbacked losses to the Cardinals and Patriots are not likely to lead to a Mike Tomlin ouster. The patient organization is not expected to move the 17th-year HC to the hot seat, but some issues with Tomlin’s moves have come up within the building.
As of now, it does not look likely the Steelers will make another in-house promotion to fill the offensive coordinator role. Play-caller Mike Sullivan has next to no chance to follow in Randy Fichtner and Matt Canada‘s footsteps, according to Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post.
Although the Steelers received an initial bump with Sullivan calling the shots, it was short-lived. They surpassed 400 total yards for the first time since Week 2 of the 2020 season, but the team has endured ugly home losses in the weeks since. A former Buccaneers and Giants OC, Sullivan is working as the Steelers’ play-caller while Eddie Faulkner — previously the team’s running backs coach — holds the interim OC title. Both Fichtner (who replaced Todd Haley in 2018) and Canada (who replaced Fichtner in 2021) were elevated from QBs coach to OC; Sullivan is unlikely to make the same move. Some of Tomlin’s hiring choices have drawn questions inside the organization, and La Canfora adds it is likely ownership will play a role as Tomlin searches for his next play-caller.
Slow starts and the inconsistent usage of promising former UDFA Jaylen Warren have also confounded some in the team’s building, per La Canfora, but Kenny Pickett‘s status is also worth monitoring. Last year’s No. 20 overall pick has not taken off in his second season, and while he has not had much time to work with Sullivan calling the plays, the Pitt product has underwhelmed based on his draft status. Questions within the organization remain concerning Pickett’s development, JLC adds.
Two years remain on Pickett’s rookie contract, and although the Steelers’ next OC will play the lead role in this development effort, the team has seen its efforts thus far stall. Pickett sits 25th in QBR, after ranking 20th in a low-octane rookie season that did include some promising late-game showings near its conclusion. Pickett has managed only 13 touchdown passes in 24 starts; he has posted just a 6.3-yard average per attempt over his career. It is not yet known if the Steelers want to take the route the 2020 Bears took with Trubisky, acquiring a veteran (Nick Foles) to compete with the scuffling starter. But concern about Pickett’s progress is probably warranted at this point.
Tomlin, 51, did not receive an extension this offseason, but if the Steelers are planning to retain him for 2024 — thus far, all signs point to the affirmative — they will likely hand out another contract before next season to avoid lame-duck status. Once again, the well-regarded HC’s .500-or-better streak is in jeopardy. Trubisky is set to make another start, and the wild-card contender (7-6) is sinking fast.
Even with the Steelers’ penchant for coach stability, Tomlin has generated scrutiny in recent years. The team has not won a playoff game since a touchdown-less triumph over the Chiefs in the 2016 divisional round, losing twice at home since. The Steelers’ status quo may face bigger-picture questions in 2024. How the franchise, which is still positioned in a wild-card spot despite the recent defeats, reassembles pieces may well become pivotal toward Tomlin’s long-term standing.