After Will Levis took over for an injured Ryan Tannehill midway through the 2023 season, the latter’s Titans tenure appeared to come to a close. Tannehill is a pending free agent, but he should draw interest from a number of potential suitors.
One of those is likely to be the Steelers, Ian Rapoport, Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo of NFL Network write. Pittsburgh hired ex-Falcons head coach Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator, meaning a Tannehill deal would mark a reunion. He and Smith worked together in Tennessee, during which time Tannehill had the most productive seasons of his career.
Smith served as the Titans’ OC in 2019 and ’20, Tannehill’s first two campaigns in Nashville. He earned his lone Pro Bowl nod, along with Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2019 while averaging a league-leading 9.2 yards per attempt. The former Dolphins first-rounder followed that up with 3,819 yards and a 33:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio, proving to be a solid fit in Smith’s run-heavy scheme. With Levis now in the fold, though, Tannehill (along with fellow stalwart Derrick Henry) is on track to depart in free agency.
In three seasons since Smith parlayed his coordinator success into Atlanta’s head coaching gig, Tannehill has regressed statistically while dealing with multiple injuries. In November, he was demoted to backup behind Levis, who showed flashes in his rookie campaign. Tannehill – who insisted he did not seek out his release in the aftermath of that decision – started the final three games of the campaign with Levis sidelined, giving him one last audition period before reaching the open market.
Tannehill, 35, is one of several veteran signal-callers in this year’s projected free agent class. Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield and Gardner Minshew could command more lucrative deals if they do not remain with their respective teams, but Tannehill could at least compete for a starting role in the right environment. Pittsburgh has Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky in place for now, but changes at the position are expected.
Trubisky is likely to be released after finding himself demoted to third-stringer, while Rudolph is a pending free agent. He could be retained, but a new deal would likely depend on the potential of winning the starting position in training camp. Pickett is under team control for at least two more years, but he was passed over in favor of Rudolph during the team’s late-season playoff push and wild-card loss. The 2022 first-rounder will enter the offseason as QB1, but a competition will take place.
Tannehill will be in line for a far smaller deal than the four-year, $118MM pact he signed in 2020 on his next contract. The Steelers, meanwhile, are among the teams currently set to be over the salary cap for the 2024 league year, although they like all others will make a number of cost-cutting moves in the coming weeks. Any interest between the two parties will be worth watching as the QB market begins to take shape.