The Steelers’ postseason chances took a hit over the past several days with upset home losses to the Cardinals and Patriots. Those defeats leave the team at 7-6, once again threatening head coach Mike Tomlin‘s well-known mark of never posting a sub-.500 record in a season.
Regardless of if that streak continues or is brought to an end, a change on the sidelines should not be expected in Pittsburgh. Tomlin is not seriously seen by any member of the organization as being on the hot seat, Dianna Russini of the Athletic reports (subscription required). The 51-year-old is currently in his 17th season at the helm of the Steelers.
Offensive struggles have been a major storyline surrounding the team in 2023, and shortcomings on that side of the ball led to increasing calls for OC Matt Canada to be replaced. In an extraordinarily rare move given the franchise’s track record on in-season firings, Canada was let go last month. The change to a new setup of Eddie Faulkner serving as OC and Mike Sullivan calling plays seemed to spark an immediate improvement, but things took a turn for the worse over the past two contests.
Quarterback Kenny Pickettwas injured in the Arizona loss, leaving Mitch Trubiskyin place to serve as starter for the Thursday night New England game. The latter is set to have a multi-game run in the No. 1 role given the recovery timeline for Pickett’s ankle sprain, on which he immediately had surgery. Even when healthy, the 2022 first-rounder has not developed as hoped this year, leading many to identify quarterback as an area of need for the Steelers this offseason. Plenty is yet to be determined for the team down the stretch, however.
Pittsburgh could still qualify for the postseason in a crowded AFC wild-card picture; doing so would mark the 11th playoff appearance in Tomlin’s tenure. The Super Bowl XLIII winner has not managed a postseason victory since the 2016 season, however, and the Steelers have recorded double-digit wins only twice in the span. In spite of the relative cold spell, Tomlin had always maintained security from a contractual perspective before the current season.
The Steelers followed a pattern of authorizing two-year Tomlin extensions every other spring for several years, but that cycle did not continue in 2023. As a result, Tomlin is on the books through 2024 and in danger of entering next season in a lame-duck situation. Given Pittsburgh’s reputation for stability on the sidelines, though, it comes as no surprise that Tomlin is set to remain in place for at least the remainder of the current campaign.
Only Bill Belichick has a longer tenure amongst active NFL head coaches, and his New England future has been the subject of signficant speculation this year. A change in New England could vault Tomlin to the top of the list in terms of longevity, but the latter will no doubt be the subject of considerable scrutiny if the Steelers fall outside the playoffs for a second straight year in 2023.
November 24th, 2023 at 12:20pm CST by Sam Robinson
After Matt Canada spent Monday preparing for the Steelers’ Week 12 game against the Bengals, Mike Tomlin informed him Tuesday morning he would not finish out his third season as offensive coordinator. This marked historically rare territory for the Steelers, who had not fired a head coach or coordinator in-season in 82 years.
Steelers players had voiced frustrations about the offense for weeks behind the scenes, according to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini, and Najee Harris‘ public comments came days before Canada’s ouster (subscription required). While the team was united on keeping Canada during September and October, the run of poor performances on offense eventually led to the course change.
Regarding whose call this truly was, conflicting reports have come out. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac indicated Art Rooney II made this decision, while Mike Tomlin said Tuesday he was behind the call. The 17th-year coach taking responsibility is certainly on-brand, though The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly expresses doubt Tomlin truly decided to break with tradition and fire Canada. That said, Russini offers that it was indeed the veteran HC’s decision — after multiple discussions with Rooney — that produced the shakeup.
Calls for Canada’s firing came down last year and intensified this season. Tomlin gave Canada a third year, doing so after Kenny Pickett showed some promise late last season. The 2022 first-round pick has struggled this year and will enter Week 12 with just seven touchdown passes. The Steelers have been outgained in all 10 of their games, and they have not produced a 400-yard offensive game since Week 2 of the 2020 season.
Pickett’s close relationship with QBs coach and new play-caller Mike Sullivan did not affect this decision, Tomlin said. Sullivan worked as mostly a non-play-calling OC during his two-season Giants tenure. Though, he finished the 2017 campaign calling the shots for the Eli Manning-piloted offense, with Ben McAdoo being fired late in that season. Sullivan called plays for the Buccaneers from 2012-13. As the wheels began to come off for Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay ranked 13th and 30th offensively during Sullivan’s two seasons; the second came as the team transitioned to rookie Mike Glennon at QB.
The Steelers promoted their QBs coach to OC in 2021 (Canada) and 2018 (Randy Fichtner). Todd Haley was the team’s last outside hire for the position. Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner is the interim OC, though his lack of play-calling responsibilities do not point to long-term consideration here. Sullivan would seem the likelier candidate for the gig, based on his role and the team’s history. If the Steelers opt to go outside the organization, Kaboly addsByron Leftwich has expressed interest in the job. The former Bucs OC made his interest known before Canada’s firing.
Leftwich would technically be an outside hire, but he has a past with the Steelers. He served as a Ben Roethlisberger reserve in 2008 and from 2010-12, joining longtime backup Charlie Batch in a deep QB room. Leftwich made one start for the Steelers, in 2012. The former QB spent four seasons as Tampa Bay’s OC. Despite Bruce Arians being an offense-oriented HC, he gave Leftwich the play-calling reins. This setup helped the Bucs win a Super Bowl in Tom Brady‘s first season and the ageless legend led the NFL in TD passes (43) and yards (5,316) in 2021. Brady and Todd Bowlesexpressed dissatisfaction with Leftwich last season, however, and the Bucs canned him in January.
Leftwich, 43, interviewed for the Ravens’ OC job this offseason but is not currently coaching. Although Rooney may or may not have insisted Tomlin fire Canada, Dulac adds the longtime HC will be the one who selects the next OC. Though, ownership will obviously need to approve Tomlin’s pick.
November 21st, 2023 at 10:08pm CST by Sam Robinson
Matt Canada will not be given an opportunity to close out a third season as Steelers offensive coordinator. While Canada had long been expected to be fired after this season, Mike Tomlin instead informed the third-year OC of an in-season dismissal Tuesday morning.
The Steelers will pivot to a co-OC setup of sorts to replace Canada, 51. Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner will take over in the coordinator role, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, who adds quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan will move into the play-calling role. Tomlin is not believed to have made the final call here, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac reporting owner Art Rooney II insisted this move be made. That being the case would add intrigue to a Steelers offensive situation that has been one of the NFL’s worst for years, though Tomlin (via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly) has since said he made the call.
Sullivan has been an OC with the Giants and Buccaneers previously; he has been with the Steelers since 2021, Canada’s first OC season. Faulkner has been in place as Pittsburgh’s RBs coach since 2019. Faulkner, 46, will play a lead role in game planning, per NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo. But Sullivan, 56, will be the assistant given headset responsibilities.
The Steelers are 6-4, but their offense has struggled throughout Canada’s third season. Pittsburgh holds a minus-29 point differential, being in the historically strange position of holding an over-.500 record after having been outgained in each of its 10 games this season. Canada’s struggles predate this year as well. The Steelers have not produced a 400-yard offensive game since the 2020 season, Randy Fichtner‘s last as OC.
The team’s 249-yard outing in Cleveland represented its 58th straight game coming in below 400 yards. The Steelers’ most recent such outing came in Week 2 of the 2020 season. Kenny Pickett, who completed 15 passes for just 106 yards against the Browns’ menacing pass defense in Week 11, has not taken a step forward in his second season. The 2022 first-rounder’s status is secure for the time being, but the Pitt product may soon be on the clock as well.
Prior to the Browns matchup, Canada had been expected to be given a chance to foster Pickett improvement to close out the season. Tomlin kept Canada on as OC — to the chagrin of many — after Pickett put together a promising stretch to close out a statistically unimpressive rookie season. Instead, this will be the first Steelers OC in-season coordinator removal since Bill Cowher relieved Ray Sherman of play-calling duties during the 1998 slate. That was not technically a firing, since Sherman finished out the season in a lesser role. This will mark rare territory for the old-school franchise. But the Steelers have been a defense-dependent outfit for years, transitioning from the “Killer B’s” era to a period of low-octane offense that has encompassed most of the 2020s.
Tomlin initially hired Canada as quarterbacks coach in 2020, but the longtime HC did not renew Fichtner’s contract for the 2021 season, promoting the ex-Maryland leader ahead of Ben Roethlisberger‘s final season. This marked Canada’s first NFL coaching gig. Prior to joining the NFL ranks, Canada had been an OC at seven schools (Indiana, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, NC State, Pitt, LSU, Maryland) from 2007-18. Finishing his Maryland tenure as interim HC amid a scandal involving former HC D.J. Durkin, Canada surfaced with the Steelers despite not coaching during the 2019 season.
While it could certainly be fair to say Canada did not have an above-average quarterback during his tenure, Tomlin will aim to see if someone else can coax better Pickett play. Roethlisberger was a shell of his Hall of Fame version by the time Canada took over, and Mitch Trubisky did not inspire confidence to start last season. Pickett, however, has flatlined during this year’s opening stretch. Pickett ranks 28th in QBR and has managed only six touchdown passes in 10 games. He finished his rookie season with seven in 13 contests. The in-state product’s yards per attempt (6.1) and completion percentage (60.5) figures are down from 2022 as well.
As a team, the Steelers rank 29th with 14 touchdowns this season. They only put up 30 points twice during Canada’s OC tenure, and this edition ranks 31st with 170 passing yards per game. Although the team missed Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth for extended spans this season, Pickett’s slow development predated those injuries. The Steelers have also enjoyed quality health along their offensive line throughout Pickett’s tenure.
This still figures to be an uphill battle for Faulkner and Sullivan, with the 2024 offseason likely to serve as a pivotal Pickett point. But the team will attempt to salvage what could still be a playoff season. Tomlin famously has never had a losing season, and the historically high-floor operation will reassemble pieces to keep that streak going.
Sullivan’s OC opportunities came from 2012-13 (Tampa Bay) and from 2016-17 (New York). Sullivan previously ran the Bucs’ offense during Greg Schiano‘s HC tenure, which covered the end of Josh Freeman‘s run and a handful of starts from then-rookie Mike Glennon. After the Giants received the last of Odell Beckham Jr.‘s dominant seasons in 2016, they struggled amid injuries in 2017. While the team fired Ben McAdoo late in the ’17 campaign, Sullivan finished that season. He was out of football for two seasons following the 2018 slate, which he spent as the Broncos’ QBs coach.
Faulkner and Canada had worked together in the college ranks, with Faulkner following Canada from Northern Illinois to Wisconsin. Faulkner spent six seasons at NC State, being on staff at the ACC program before Canada. Faulkner handled a number of duties with the Wolfpack, but he was last a coordinator during a two-year stay (2009-10) at Ball State. Sullivan will bring 22 years’ worth of NFL assistant experience to his new role, while Faulkner joined Canada in having never coached in the pros until Tomlin offered him a job.
The Steelers offense has struggled mightily through the first two weeks of the 2023 season, leading fans at Acrisure Stadium to call for offensive coordinator Matt Canada‘s firing during Monday’s eventual win over the Browns. Steelers head coach MikeTomlin acknowledged the offense’s struggles and admitted to hearing the fans’ “Fire Canada” chant, but he told reporters that he doesn’t envision making a change to his staff.
“We aren’t going to have knee-jerk reactions in terms of making wholesale changes to change that outcome, but we do acknowledge two is a pattern,” Tomlin said (via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic). “We’ve had two outings that are not up to snuff in that regard, so it has our attention.”
Through eight quarters, the Steelers offense has found the end zone as many times as the defense (twice). As Kaboly notes, the unit has had 12 three-and-outs on 25 drives, and the offense didn’t have one snap in the red zone during their win over Cleveland.
Naturally, the offense’s lack of success will be a reflection on Canada. Still, as Kaboly points out, it’d be unlike the organization to make a major coaching move during the season; the last time the Steelers made such a move was when Bill Cowher removed Ray Sherman’s play-calling duties during the 1998 campaign. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette echoes that sentiment, writing that it’d take “a lot” for Canada to get fired before the season ends.
You can’t blame the Pittsburgh faithful for being frustrated. Since getting promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator in 2021, Canada hasn’t been able to guide the Steelers to even an above-average operation. The team dropped from 22nd in points score in 2021 to 24th in 2022, and while they jumped from 25th to 19th in total yards, the passing offense took a major step back.
Tomlin has continued to bring back Canada despite the underwhelming results, and the team retained him for 2023 with the idea that he’d offer some continuity to Kenny Pickett and the young offense. The Steelers coach hasn’t changed his tune, but he did admit that his staff has to do a better job of preparing the offense.
“It starts with coaching,” Tomlin said. “We have to coach better. We have to get these guys playing faster with more fluidity and surer. We have to play more coordinated, especially early in games. We have to anticipate the schematics of those we play against a little bit better. Displaying anticipation is a component of preparedness. We have to put them in really good circumstances, we have to recognize those circumstances and perform.”
After the 2022 offseason produced 10 new head coaches, this one brought a step back in terms of turnover. Five teams changed HCs, though each conducted thorough searches — four of them lasting until at least January 31.
The Colts and Cardinals hired their HCs after Super Bowl LVII, plucking the Eagles’ offensive and defensive coordinators (Shane Steichen, Jonathan Gannon). The Cardinals were hit with a tampering penalty regarding their Gannon search. Conducting their second HC search in two years, the Broncos saw multiple candidates drop out of the running. But Denver’s new ownership group convinced Sean Payton to step out of the FOX studio and back onto the sidelines after just one season away. The Panthers made this year’s first hire (Frank Reich), while the Texans — running their third HC search in three years — finalized an agreement with DeMeco Ryans minutes after the Payton news broke.
Only one of last year’s top 10 longest-tenured HCs lost his job. A turbulent Colts year led to Reich being fired barely a year after he signed an extension. During a rather eventful stretch, Jim Irsay said he reluctantly extended Reich in 2021. The Colts passed on giving interim HC Jeff Saturday the full-time position, despite Irsay previously indicating he hoped the former center would transition to that role. Reich landed on his feet, and after losing Andrew Luck to a shocking retirement just before his second Colts season, the well-regarded play-caller now has another No. 1 pick (Bryce Young) to mentor.
After considering a Rams exit, Sean McVayrecommitted to the team and is overseeing a reshaped roster. Andy Reid also sidestepped retirement rumors, staying on with the Chiefs after his second Super Bowl win. This will be Reid’s 25th season as an NFL head coach.
Here is how the 32 HC jobs look for the 2023 season:
Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
The Steelers seemed destined for their first ever losing season under head coach Mike Tomin midway through the 2022 campaign, but the team rallied to a 9-8 finish. While that was not enough for them to make the postseason, it seems to have been sufficient to earn him another new deal.
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that Tomlin, 50, is under contract through 2024. However, the Steelers have routinely extended him during offseasons when he had two years remaining on his existing pact, including most recently in April of 2021. That would make this spring the next expected date for a re-up, which would mark Tomlin’s seventh extension with the Steelers.
2022 saw Pittsburgh turn their offense over to first-round rookie Kenny Pickett, a move which involved growing pains and inconsistency on offense in general. The team’s performance on that side of the ball led to plenty of criticism for offensive coordinator Matt Canada, though he is expected to be retained for at least one more season. A return to health from edge rusher T.J. Watthelped spark another high-end defensive performance, though, which brought the team back into postseason contention.
That concluded Tomlin’s 16th season at the helm of the Steelers, a franchise which has had only three coaches since 1969. His recent tenure does not include the postseason success of his earlier years – Pittsburgh has not won a playoff game since 2016 – but he is still very highly regarded by the team’s front office. That includes president Art Rooney II, who spoke about Tomlin in a recent interview.
“I don’t really evaluate Mike on anything other than I’m glad he’s our coach,” Rooney said, via Dulac. “Hopefully he’ll be our coach into the future. He gives us a chance to win, year in and year out, and put us in a position where we have a chance to compete for a championship.”
While Rooney also cautioned that he did not want to “speculate” on Tomlin’s contractual status, his above remarks certainly point to another multi-year deal coming soon. Assuming that takes place, a two-year re-up would put Tomlin on track to coach in Pittsburgh for 20 seasons, only three shy of Chuck Noll‘s tenure with the franchise. Even without a new contract, he can safely be pegged for another campaign in 2023 as the team looks to build off of this year’s late-season turnaround.
The Steelers are trending in the wrong direction to start the 2022 season, one which came with a number of questions on offense. After last week’s 38-3 loss to the Bills, though, no shake-up on the sidelines is expected.
When speaking to the media after the loss, head coach Mike Tomlin stated that he has been “highly involved” in the team’s offense, a unit led by Matt Canada. The latter has been the subject of plenty of scrutiny dating back to last season, his first as offensive coordinator. As Tomlin stressed, however, he will not make “changes for the sake of changes” with respect to the maligned play-caller (Twitterlinks via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor).
Through five weeks, Pittsburgh ranks 30th in the NFL in both yards (308.6) and points (15.4) per game. The underwhelming play of veteran signing Mitch Trubiskyled to first-round rookie Kenny Pickettbeing installed as the starting quarterback, something which certainly didn’t produce the desired results in Week 5. He and the team face another tough matchup this Sunday against the Buccaneers.
Here are some other notes from around the AFC North:
Beside Tomlin, another high-profile coach who has had a hand in offensive game-planning has been Brian Flores. The former Dolphins head coach sat in on that unit’s meetings prior to the Steelers’ game against the Patriots, per SI’s Albert Breer. More generally, Breer notes, Flores has been operating as an “over-the-top assistant” with the offense, in addition to his primary responsibilities as LBs coach. The expanded role comes as the team “hopes” Flores is able to land another HC opportunity down the road.
As for the QB position, a deal could be coming soon. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic points out that, with Pickett having assumed No. 1 duties, it would make sense for Pittsburgh to move on from one of Trubisky or Mason Rudolph at the upcoming trade deadline (subscription required). The latter is a pending free agent and was the subject of trade talks this offseason, though the Steelers held on to him. Trubisky, meanwhile, is under contract for 2023 with a cap hit of $10.625MM.
The Browns have the league’s top rushing attack, something owing in no small part to the play of their offensive line. That includes center Ethan Pocic, who signed in Cleveland this offseason after five years in Seattle. When weighing the options presented by a modest free agent market, the 27-year-old chose to work with Browns o-line coach Bill Callahan. “As soon as I wasn’t going to get a big contract, a long-term contract, everything was pretty low, league minimum for the most part, I just went to the team with the best coaches and the best players,” he said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. After the season-ending injury suffered by Nick Harris, Pocic assumed a starter’s role and currently ranks as PFF’s fourth-highest rated center.
The first few weeks of the season have offered a glimpse into a new element in the Ravens’ offense. The team has implemented more looks from under center for QB Lamar Jackson, as detailed by the Washington Posts’ Jason La Canfora. Jackson operated almost exclusively from the shotgun prior to entering the NFL; Baltimore deployed plenty of pistol formations during the first four years of his career. 2022, however, has seen a dramatic uptick in his under-center looks, especially in the passing game – part of OC Greg Roman‘s attempts to diversify the team’s run-heavy offense. Overall, that has so far translated to just 213 passing yards per contest (23rd in the league), so the degree to which the team remains committed to this new element will be interesting to monitor as the season progresses.
The NFL experienced a busy offseason on the coaching front. A whopping 10 teams changed coaches during the 2022 offseason, with the Buccaneers’ late-March switch pushing the number into double digits.
Fourteen of the league’s 32 head coaches were hired in the past two offseasons, illustrating the increased pressure the NFL’s sideline leaders face in today’s game. Two of the coaches replaced this year left on their own. Sean Payton vacated his spot in second on the longest-tenured HCs list by stepping down from his 16-year Saints post in February, while Bruce Arians has repeatedly insisted his Bucs exit was about giving his defensive coordinator a chance with a strong roster and not a Tom Brady post-retirement power play.
While Bill Belichick has been the league’s longest-tenured HC for many years, Payton’s exit moved Mike Tomlin up to No. 2. Mike Zimmer‘s firing after nine seasons moved Frank Reich into the top 10. Reich’s HC opportunity only came about because Josh McDaniels spurned the Colts in 2018, but Indianapolis’ backup plan has led the team to two playoff brackets and has signed an extension. Reich’s seat is hotter in 2022, however, after a January collapse. Linked to numerous HC jobs over the past several offseasons, McDaniels finally took another swing after his Broncos tenure ended quickly.
As 2022’s training camps approach, here are the NFL’s longest-tenured HCs:
Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
As Pittsburgh rolls into the post-Roethlisberger era, they are in the less than common situation of having four drafted quarterbacks on the roster. Mind you, the Steelers did not originally draft Mitchell Trubisky, but the point is that while most teams’ third- and/or fourth-string quarterbacks tend to be undrafted long-shots, every quarterback on Pittsburgh’s roster had draft capital invested in them. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic gave a breakdown this weekend of where each of these quarterbacks has slotted through spring practices.
Pittsburgh acquired Trubisky in free agency this offseason after also considering then-free agents Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston. Despite the hole left behind center, the Steelers never seemed to consider trade options such as Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo and made it known early that they were not going to acquire Deshaun Watson. Trubisky signed a reasonable two-year deal to compete for the starting job in Pittsburgh after spending last season as Josh Allen‘s backup in Buffalo.
Trubisky saw all of his work this spring come with the first-team offense, throwing almost solely to Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth. Not only did he only work with the first-team, he was the only quarterback to work with the first-team receivers and offensive line combination. Trubisky appears to be a good fit with offensive coordinator Matt Canada‘s motion-heavy offense. Regardless of whether or not this is a clear indication of who will start Week 1, Trubisky is in the mindset that he will win the job saying, “I’m preparing to be a starter. I feel like, no matter what position you’re in, that’s the way you should prepare.”
The quarterback taking snaps with the second-team is not who most would assume. Third-year Steeler Mason Rudolph is currently the second-string quarterback. The former third-round draft pick has started 10 games over his career (eight in his rookie season) with limited success. Despite the potential for him to settle in as someone who had their chance and watched it pass by, Rudolph reportedly “looked the best of the four quarterbacks” this spring. Rudolph is a meticulous worker and preparer and threw the most consistent ball with the biggest body in the group. While many considered him to be nothing more than a camp body, Rudolph put himself in the quarterback conversation, even if it will require some failures from Trubisky and Pickett to get him to the top of the depth chart. “This is the best opportunity I’ve had in four years,” Rudolph told Kaboly. “I am excited, and I look forward to competing.”
Working as the third-string quarterback this spring has been rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett. Head coach Mike Tomlin and Canada both offered that their current snap distribution is based solely on seniority, with Pickett falling behind Trubisky and Rudolph despite the possibility that he may be the most talented of the bunch. The idea is for Pickett to take the time this spring “to learn how to be a pro,” getting comfortable with the scheme and playbook now so that he can focus on competing for his depth chart spot in the summer. Luckily for Pickett, he has a bit of a leg up in terms of the language of the playbook with some familiarity from the time Canada recruited Pickett to Pitt. Pickett didn’t have too many snaps fewer than Trubisky or Rudolph, but his third-string status had him throwing to a very different receiver group. Pickett said he was “trying to be the best pro (he) can be,” calling this spring “100 percent successful.”
Lastly on the roster is rookie seventh-round draft pick Chris Oladokun. Oladokun transferred from South Florida to Samford to South Dakota State throughout his college career, spending that whole time outside of consistent Power 5 football. According to Kaboly, it showed, as Oladokun “looked like a guy who didn’t get many reps and came from a small college.” Oladokun is a project and his dearth of playing time reflected that, with Oladokun pointing out the importance of staying “locked in” mentally. The benefit of Oladokun’s lowly roster status is that he gets plenty of exclusive time working with David Corley, the assistant to quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan. Whether or not Oladokun ever competes for starting snaps in Pittsburgh, his dedicated time with Corley will foster benefits throughout the future of his career.
For now, the spring depth chart reflects the level of experience, just as Tomlin and Canada have intended. Based on the amount of time Trubisky has had with the first-team, it’s hard to imagine anyone else starting behind center in Week 1 at Cincinnati. Though, with Rudolph coming into his own and the talented rookie, Pickett, hot on their heels, it’s anyone’s guess who the Bengals will face in their season opener.
“I would say that we’re working at Lamar’s pace. He’s comfortable with where we are right now,” DeCosta stated. He did call negotiations “unusual” with Jackson essentially acting as his own agent. There doesn’t seem to be any rush to get a deal done, though. DeCosta acknowledged that the Ravens are fine with Jackson playing on his fifth-year option, and Jackson seems more focused on the team’s unfinished business after being the AFC’s number one-seed in 2020 but failing to make it to a Super Bowl yet.
Here are a few more notes on the AFC North, starting with another item out of Charm City:
DeCosta spoke a bit, as well, about the team’s plan to focus on offensive line this offseason. One of the things that they fear they’ll need to address is the free agency of center Bradley Bozeman. Bozeman moved from guard to center after Matt Skura signed with the Dolphins in free agency last year, and they’re afraid Bozeman’s play has priced him out of Maryland. Baltimore saw Ryan Jensen leave to become the highest paid center in football in 2018, so they’re certainly used to replacing centers. They currently have utility lineman Patrick Mekari, who has started games at all three offensive line positions throughout his young Ravens’ career, and who signed an extension late in the season.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller became close friends as they rehabbed together in Colorado Springs last offseason, dreaming about eventually playing together. According to George M. Thomas of the Akron Beacon Journal, Beckham made it clear that if they were to make it a reality, it couldn’t be in orange and brown. Miller informed Thomas that Beckham told him straight up, “Don’t come to Cleveland.” In the end, Miller was traded to the Rams and, following a nasty separation from the Browns, Beckham signed to join him in Los Angeles. The pair are now set to play in Super Bowl LVI against a team Beckham knows all too well from his time in the AFC North.
With longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisbergerretiring last week, head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert represented Pittsburgh at Senior Bowl practices this week. Despite the quarterback group leaving much to be desired through some injury concerns and bad weather, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus reports that buzz around the event is that the Steelers like Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. Willis has shown the best combination of athleticism and arm strength at practices this week and a source informed Kyed that he’s impressed in interviews, as well. The Steelers currently hold the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and could easily see Willis fall to them, as he’s been seen as a borderline first round pick since declaring. They could also risk potentially missing out on him and trade back later in the first round or early in the second and try to maximize need and value.