Mike Tomlin

AFC North Notes: Tomlin, Green, Browns

There may be plenty of Steelers fans unhappy with head coach Mike Tomlin, but he has navigated his team through some turbulent waters over the last couple of seasons, and after starting the 2019 campaign 0-3 and losing Ben Roethlisberger to injury, Pittsburgh is now 4-4 and is back in the AFC playoff picture. As Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com writes, Steelers players believe Tomlin is in the midst of one of his finest coaching performances, and that should go a long way towards quieting outside criticism. Thanks to an (admittedly unusual) one-year extension that he signed in July, Tomlin is under contract through 2021, and his standing within the organization seems strong.

Now for more from the AFC North:

  • Bengals WR A.J. Green will miss Sunday’s game against the Ravens after it was initially reported that he would be making his 2019 debut against Baltimore, and Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic believes the sudden turn of events could suggest that Green is preparing to sit out for the remainder of the season (which may be what he wanted all along). However, Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network observed that Green was working out on the field Sunday morning and says his ankle will be reassessed this week (Twitter link). As of right now, the team is not planning on shutting Green down for the year.
  • In addition to Green, the Bengals have been without LT Cordy Glenn all year. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, Glenn is still taking scout-team reps in practice, and it’s unclear whether he will be activated at all in 2019. Of course, Glenn and the Bengals are at odds over the team’s handling of his concussion, so it’s possible Glenn has already played his last snap for Cincinnati.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says the Browns‘ analytics department believed Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski, not Freddie Kitchens, was the right man for Cleveland’s head coaching job. Of course, the Browns went against that recommendation, but given the club’s disappointing 2019 season, the team could be back in the market for an HC in 2020, and if that happens, Stefanski — who was reportedly the runner-up to Kitchens — should be on the short list of potential replacements.
  • Browns RB Kareem Hunt will make his Cleveland debut against the Bills on Sunday after serving an eight-game suspension, and La Canfora says Hunt is expected to be a major part of the team’s offense right away. Even more importantly, Hunt has not only fulfilled all of the league’s requirements for reinstatement, but he has taken on a number of non-mandatory responsibilities. Per La Canfora, Hunt meets with women’s groups, participates in community service, and continues to speak to a counselor regularly.

Extra Points: Coaches, Bears, Bell, Tomlin

About halfway through the 2019 NFL season, one head coach has already been fired (Jay Gruden), and several more are on the hot seat. With that in mind people’s attentions are starting to turn to the next crop of head coaches, and it should be a pretty busy carousel this offseason. The league has begun their annual process of internally identifying top head coach and general manager candidates, and a committee will meet again in Week 11 to come up with a list, sources told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. La Canfora notes that Stanford coach David Shaw has been “receiving ringing endorsements and has very strong support within the league,” although he has rebuffed NFL advances in the past.

La Canfora also highlights several current NFL assistant coaches who have already talked about heavily. Interestingly, he identifies some potential new general manager candidates who we haven’t heard as much about. La Canfora writes that there is “heavy support” for fired Giants GM Jerry Reese to receive another job. “Former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie and former Lions GM Martin Mayhew are also generating support from the committee,” La Canfora writes. He also throws out ESPN analyst Louis Riddick as someone who is highly regarded, and we’ve heard those same rumblings before.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Miles Sanders has played a big role for the Eagles this season, and he racked up 73 yards in their win over the Bears on Sunday. Apparently, as the rookie revealed to the media earlier this week, he almost ended up in Chicago. “I thought I was going to end up there,” Sanders said of the Bears, who didn’t have a pick in April’s draft until the third round, via Zach Berman of The Athletic. “They knew I was probably going to be gone before the third round, but they were also talking about trading up to get me,” he said. The Penn State product was the second running back taken in the draft, and the Bears ended up nabbing David Montgomery in the third round. Sanders has been a part of a timeshare backfield with Jordan Howard so far.
  • Jets running back Le’Veon Bell surprised everybody by saying the Steelers called about trading for him at the deadline, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed they did. Not so fast says Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin, who replied “not to my knowledge, no,” when asked if the Steelers tried to acquire Bell, per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (Twitter link). It’s possible the truth lies somewhere in between, and the most likely scenario is that the Steelers made an exploratory phone call but never got at all serious about it. Bell coming back to the city he started his career in would’ve at least made a dull trade deadline a lot more interesting.
  • In case you missed it, the Seahawks apparently thought about adding Antonio Brown before claiming Josh Gordon off waivers.

Redskins Will Try To Trade For Steelers’ HC Mike Tomlin

Here’s some pie-in-the-sky fodder for your Sunday morning. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Redskins owner Dan Snyder — who recently fired head coach Jay Gruden — is expected to make a strong push to acquire Mike Tomlin from the Steelers this offseason. La Canfora adds that Snyder, who has long admired Tomlin, is prepared to trade draft picks to Pittsburgh to bring the Super Bowl-winning HC to Washington.

Although there is a large contingent of Steelers fans who are unhappy with Tomlin, his standing within the organization seems just fine. Pittsburgh did raise some eyebrows when it gave Tomlin a one-year extension in July instead of the usual two-year re-up, especially since his new extension does not have an option for a future year. However, he is still under contract through the 2021 campaign, and team ownership has never expressed anything less than full confidence in him.

On the other hand, the Steelers may be nearing something of a crossroads in franchise history. Although Ben Roethlisberger is expected to make a full recovery from his recent elbow surgery and reclaim his starting job in 2020, the team is likely going to need to usher in a new quarterback era in the next couple of years, and GM Kevin Colbert is only under contract through May 2020 (Colbert apparently wants to go year-to-year, which means Pittsburgh may also be looking for a new top personnel exec in the not-too-distant future).

Plus, the Steelers are short on high-level draft capital in the 2020 draft as a result of their trades for Devin Bush and Minkah Fitzpatrick, so an offer for Tomlin could be more appealing than it otherwise might be. Sources close to Tomlin suggest the Redskins’ job could appeal to him, particularly since Snyder is willing to give him a top-of-the-market salary and full authority over personnel. Tomlin also has relationships with Washington team president Bruce Allen and GM Doug Williams.

But when weighing the Steelers’ record of stability and status as a perennial contender against the Redskins’ history of dysfunction and misery under Snyder, it is difficult to imagine a trade like this coming to fruition. If Snyder is unsuccessful in his pursuit of Tomlin, La Canfora says current Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles would be a top alternative, and we recently heard that Washington OC Kevin O’Connell will also receive strong consideration.

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com neither refutes nor supports La Canfora’s report, but he does say Snyder will be patient in this process and will not begin his head coaching search until after the season. Snyder will give interim HC Bill Callahan and O’Connell the remainder of 2019 to prove their worth without any additional distractions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Tomlin, Ravens, Browns

Let’s take a quick look at the latest happenings from the AFC North, starting in Pittsburgh:

  • The Steelers gave Mike Tomlin a one-year extension (through 2021) instead of their usual two-year re-ups, and this one does not have an option for a future year. But the 13th-year Steelers sideline boss does not look to be on shaky ground, despite the franchise missing the playoffs last season and parting ways with two of the most talented players in team history this year. Tomlin, 47, also has no plans to walk away any time soon. “He certainly hasn’t put any sticker date on himself, and neither have we,” Steelers owner Art Rooney said, via Albert Breer of SI.com. “He’s still a relatively young guy in the coaching profession and has certainly as much energy and enthusiasm as he’s ever had. So I don’t think there’s any particular window that he’s going to coach through. He hasn’t given me any indication that he’s got any date in mind.”
  • The Ravens boast one of the NFL’s premier secondaries and auditioned another Pro Bowler who could potentially fill a role there. Safety Brynden Trawick worked out for his former team recently, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Trawick is known more for his special teams acumen, having made the 2017 Pro Bowl as a Titans special-teamer. But Trawick began his career in Baltimore, the former UDFA playing three seasons with the Ravens from 2013-15.
  • Duke Johnson‘s agent was in Berea, Ohio, this week to discuss his client’s complicated situation with the Browns. Drew Rosenhaus met with John Dorsey and assistant GM Eliot Wolf, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. Dorsey maintains the Browns are not going to trade Johnson, who has requested to be dealt out of Cleveland. For now, the passing-down back remains sidelined with a hamstring injury — one that could keep him out “a little while,” Cabot adds.
  • It looks like the best-case scenario for A.J. Green is a late-September return. Zac Taylor acknowledged the Bengals will likely be without their Pro Bowl wideout to start the season.

Steelers Notes: Colbert, Tomlin, Burns, Haden

The Steelers staved off questions about Mike Tomlin’s job status, at least temporarily, by giving him a one-year extension recently. They didn’t do the same for GM Kevin Colbert, and that was apparently at his request. Colbert told reporters at training camp today that “he’s not getting an extension because he wanted to go year-to-year based on ‘personal request’ to organization,” per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Fowler notes that Colbert is only under contract until May of 2020, and that the GM said his age could be a factor in whether or not he steps away. Colbert, 62, has been Pittsburgh’s front office head since 2010.

This is the first we’ve heard of any potential retirement for Colbert, so as Fowler points out, this is a “big development.” Steelers owner Art Rooney chimed in, saying “at this stage of the game, he’s really not looking to do any long-term planning,” per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We talked and we agreed he’d rather wait till after the season to talk about the contract.” Fowler noted in a follow-up tweet that Colbert indicated he could still be around for several more years, but he’s got “wiggle room” now. The Steelers have undergone a lot of change the last couple of years, and this would be another huge one.

Here’s more from Pittsburgh:

  • Tomlin’s job security has been a hot topic in recent years, and he’s one of the more polarizing coaches out there. He usually receives two-year extensions, so it was notable that this time around he only got one. When asked what he thought about that, Tomlin insisted it didn’t matter to him. “Nothing,” he told reporters, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. “I really don’t think a lot about it to be quite honest with you. I focus on the task at hand, and if you do that, contractual things take care of themselves.” Tomlin has been the coach since 2007, but he’ll be under intense pressure to win in 2019. If the Steelers struggle, his seat will start getting awfully hot.
  • Tomlin’s old contract had an option year that was triggered due to hitting a certain number of wins, Dulac tweets. A source told Dulac that Tomlin’s new recently signed contract doesn’t have any similar provisions.
  • The Steelers don’t only have to worry about the contract situation of their coach and general manager, some players need to be decided on as well. Pittsburgh didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on former first-round pick Artie Burns back in May, which led to a lot of speculation that he’d be cut. Burns was due an $800K roster bonus this weekend, so a decision was always going to have to be made right around now. Burns will in fact collect the $800K and he’ll be a member of the Steelers in 2019, reports Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Burns hasn’t lived up to his draft status, but he did start six games last year and all 16 the year before that.
  • In the same tweet, La Canfora notes that the team is “working on extending” cornerback Joe Haden. Haden is entering the final year of the three-year, $27MM deal he signed after being released by the Browns back in 2017, and we heard a couple of days ago that the two sides had begun talking.

Steelers Sign Mike Tomlin To Extension

Mike Tomlin isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. On Thursday, the Steelers extended their head coach through the 2021 season, per a team announcement. 

I am very appreciative of this contract extension and opportunity and want to thank Art Rooney II and everyone in the organization for the support in my first 12 seasons,” Tomlin said. “We have a goal of winning the organization’s seventh Super Bowl championship, and I couldn’t be more excited about this upcoming season.”

The Steelers pride themselves on consistency and have had only three head coaches since 1969. There was some speculation about Tomlin’s job security after the Steelers missed the playoffs last year, but the team clearly has confidence in him as a leader.

This season may prove to be Tomlin’s most challenging yet – he’ll look to get the Steelers back into contention without the services of superstars Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Johnson, Tomlin, Bengals

The Browns refuse to grant Duke Johnson‘s request for a trade, but the running back is expected to show for OTAs, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But the veteran Browns reporter notes Johnson was not on the field for the first session of Cleveland’s Tuesday workouts. Johnson, understandably, is concerned about his role behind rising star Nick Chubb and new pickup Kareem Hunt, although Hunt will be suspended for the first half of the season. The veteran passing-down back has drawn interest from other teams this offseason, but John Dorsey has insisted that Johnson is in the Browns’ 2019 plans. Despite Dorsey having parted ways with most of the players from previous regimes, he has kept Johnson around. The Dorsey regime extended Johnson in June of 2018. Three years remain on his deal.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • It does not appear the Steelers are having second thoughts about Mike Tomlin, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac calling a Tomlin extension a “when, not if” situation. Two years remain on Tomlin’s deal, and the Steelers have made a habit of extending their coach when two years were left on previous contracts. Tomlin’s recent Steelers teams have either underachieved or were racked with turmoil, and Dulac adds it would not be unreasonable for Art Rooney II to table an extension for a year. However, Tomlin will likely receive a notable raise because of recent deals handed out to John Harbaugh ($9MM per year), Jon Gruden ($10MM AAV) and Pete Carroll (nearly $11MM annually), Dulac notes. Entering his 13th year with the Steelers, Tomlin is believed to earn just more than $7MM per year.
  • Darqueze Dennard will not participate in near-future Bengals workouts due to having undergone knee surgery earlier this offseason. The operation occurred between the time Dennard re-signed with the Bengals and their offseason program, and Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com notes the team was aware the cornerback needed this arthroscopic procedure done upon re-signing him. The current hope is the slot corner returns for Cincinnati’s minicamp next month.
  • Conversely, Tyler Eifert has been participating in the Bengals’ offseason activities thus far. The injury-prone (perhaps putting it mildly) tight end said he’s “doing pretty much everything” during Bengals workouts, Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Eifert’s latest injury interruption came when he suffered an ugly broken ankle early last season. He underwent surgery in October. Despite the spree of setbacks, the former first-round pick stands to be (if healthy) the Bengals’ top receiving tight end.
  • Third-year Bengals defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow expects to be cleared to return by training camp, Dehner adds. The 2017 fourth-round pick tore his ACL in Week 3 of last season. Pro Football Focus offered a strong endorsement of Glasgow’s brief 2018 work sample, though it was cut short after just 92 snaps.
  • The Steelers waived offensive lineman R.J. Prince on Monday. He cleared waivers but has a Ravens workout scheduled for Wednesday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. A 2018 UDFA, Prince spent time on Pittsburgh’s practice squad last season.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC Notes: Tomlin, Bengals, Dolphins

Michael Lombardi of The Athletic takes a deep dive into the Antonio Brown saga, and he is pretty straightforward with his thoughts on the entire situation. He certainly puts much of the blame for the acrimonious relationship between Brown and the Steelers on Brown himself, saying that the talented wideout has a tremendous combination of selfishness, all-about-me attitude, and hostility towards the only team he has ever known. As one GM recently said, Brown is a a “[g]reat talent, but a huge pain in the ass.”

However, Lombardi also says that while Brown’s behavior has driven down his price on the trade market, interested teams are doing their homework to get to the true essence of the problem. Lombardi believes the Steelers’ culture is lost, and that head coach Mike Tomlin, despite his impressive 57-29-1 record over the last five seasons, loses critical games because he and his teams fail to handle small details and do not exhibit the physical and mental toughness they need in key situations. The Rooney family does not overreact, but Lombardi suggests the imminent departures of Brown and Le’Veon Bell will lead to a thorough evaluation of Tomlin, who will need to fix his team’s culture in order to secure his future in Pittsburgh.

Now for more out of the AFC:

  • Linebacker Jon Bostic would like to return to the Steelers, but Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the club has no interest in re-signing Bostic. The Steelers could look to the draft to fortify their inside linebacker position, but this year’s collegiate crop of ILBs is a bit thin. Pittsburgh also needs to address its cornerback depth chart, but Dulac suggests the free agent market could be a better option in that regard given the club’s poor history of drafting CBs under Tomlin. Of course, the Steelers will use much of their time at this week’s Scouting Combine to explore the trade market for Brown.
  • The Bengals have historically been pretty conservative on the free agent market under owner Mike Brown, and Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com does not believe that will change going forward, even though Cincinnati has a new head coach for the first time in 16 years (Twitter link). That is in keeping with a piece that the Cincinnati Enquirer published several days ago.
  • The Dolphins have plenty of holes to fill during this year’s draft, and as Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald writes, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell could be a perfect fit for the team’s pass rush if the Fins do not use their first-round pick on a QB. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, citing the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, says Miami should be able to build its O-line throughout the draft, and that the team was not particularly impressed by West Virginia signal-caller Will Grier. Jackson also explores the Dolphins’ other options for their No. 13 overall pick, including trade-back scenarios.
  • Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com expects the Titans to sign a wideout and an interior lineman in free agency and to address those positions in the draft as well. The team may be getting Delanie Walker back in time for OTAs, but Wyatt also believes the Titans will add at least one TE to the mix, and he expects Tennessee will try to re-sign Luke Stocker.

Steelers, Antonio Brown Still In Talks

Although the odds Antonio Brown is wearing a different uniform are still fairly decent, the All-Pro wide receiver continues to talk with members of the Steelers front office.

The Steelers have yet to grant Brown or agent Drew Rosenhaus permission to seek a trade. During this time, however, Brown has maintained a steady dialogue with some Steelers personnel executives, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link), adding that the relationship remains solid between Brown and some members of the front office.

However, Brown has not discussed his situation with Kevin Colbert or Mike Tomlin, Rapoport adds. Nor has Brown returned Art Rooney II‘s phone calls since the season ended, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

As of Monday, Brown’s preference is still to be traded. Brown has been most connected to the 49ers, the latest link being a Photoshopped image of a No. 84 49ers jersey. But not much has developed on that front since rumors the Steelers might initiate trade talks surfaced.

Brown and Tomlin obviously did not leave things in a good place after the season ended. But Rooney appears to have softened his stance about the 30-year-old superstar returning to Pittsburgh in 2019. Brown still has some support in the Steelers’ locker room as well. Rooney, however, added the caveat of likely needing to hear some sort of an apology from Brown for his Week 17 actions if the parties will move forward together.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Antonio Brown, Steelers

On Friday, Antonio Brown, through his rep, declined to comment on prospective trade talks. However, the receiver is reportedly open to either being traded or returning to the Steelers in 2019, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets

According to Fowler, the perennial Pro Bowl pick is “open/eager” to prove he can thrive in any offense, but is fine with returning to Pittsburgh “if things shake out that way.” This comes a day after Steelers president Art Rooney II said it would be “hard to envision” Brown with the team next season.

This has all spiraled out of control fast since Brown’s blowup leading up to Week 17, which led head coach Mike Tomlin to bench him for a pivotal game against Cincinnati. Shortly thereafter, it was reported the star receiver was requesting a trade.

Thanks to the $19MM signing bonus he received in his four-year, $68MM extension and the $12.96MM restructuring bonus he later secured, cutting or trading Brown would result in a $21.12MM cap charge in 2019.

While it could be difficult to deal the wideout financially, the Steelers seem willing to explore trading Brown. Despite the hefty price tag, Brown is sure to find suitors looking to get its hands on the most consistent receiver from the last five years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.