For the first time in his 15-year head coaching career, Mike Tomlin is entering an off-season without Ben Roethlisberger as the Pittsburgh Steelers' franchise quarterback.
While Roethlisberger has yet to make an official announcement, he is presumed to not be playing next year. "All signs" pointed to the Week 17 win against the Cleveland Browns being Roethlisberger's final home game, he said earlier this season. After the Pittsburgh Steelers' playoff exit against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Roethlisberger didn't use the word retirement but said he is looking forward to the next chapter.
The next franchise quarterback is something that will be up to the man.
He said he was excited about the challenge in his annual season wrap-up Tuesday. Those of us that are competitors are. It's a challenge. It makes you uneasy. I've learned to run through those challenges. I have learned to appreciate those challenges. The uncertainty surrounding them makes me want to produce work.
If the new faces come from free agency, a trade, or the draft, then they won't matter, according to the coach.
"All options are on the table," he said. Kevin and I speak plain English, so we enjoy working together. We need to improve our football team. There are two major ways to do it. You can do it through the draft or free agency. We have to look at what is available in the draft. We have to look at what's available to us in free agency, positionally, and then we kind of bring those two discussions together. It gives us a way to address our needs.
With more cap flexibility, the team could either sign a free-agent quarterback like Jameis Winston or trade for Russell Wilson, who could be the next franchise quarterback.
Pitt's Kenny Pickett or North Carolina's Sam Howell could be available for the 20th pick in the upcoming draft, if the Steelers choose to take a quarterback.
He said he doesn't want to have a rebuilding process because he doesn't want to bring in a veteran over a rookies.
Mobility is an important trait for a quarterback.
He said quarterback mobility is valued by everyone. It's a part of the game today.
The only quarterback under contract for the Steelers is Mason Rudolph, who spent the 2021 season on the roster. Both will have the chance to compete for the starting job.
When asked if either of them could be an everyday starter, the coach said that they had had their moments, but would have to prove it. In the team development process, as well as playing itself. I wouldn't call them everyday starters. They will be given an opportunity to establish themselves, and there will be competition. There is always.
I think that both guys are prepared to fight that fight with what they've done from a work standpoint and a professionalism standpoint.
In the Week 10 game against the Detroit Lions, Rudolph started and completed 30 of 50 attempts for 242 yards and a touchdown. After Roethlisberger's season-ending elbow injury, he started eight games and took over the job. He had time with both Duck and Devlin.
After signing with the Steelers in the off-season, Haskins only played one game during the 2021 season. During training camp, he competed with Rudolph for the backup spot, but ended up being the No. 3. The former first-round pick started 13 games for the Washington Football Team.
In addition to addressing the future of the team's quarterback position, Tomlin also talked about the future of other key members of his staff and the organization.
Canada will return for at least one more season, as a sign that the coach is confident in him.
He said he was optimistic about what Matt could do. We took a step back. There are some obvious reasons why that happened. We have to be better. We intend to be. That will require a lot of planning and work. The players and the coaches.
The lack of offensive success was acknowledged by Tomlin. The average yards per play for the Steelers in 2020 was 5.2.
"I'm not happy with any part of it," he said. "I'm just acknowledging that he brings things to the table that are attractive, and we need to be better and that, you know, that's a component of it as well." I'm not acknowledging any satisfaction with any part of what we've done as I sit here today.
In the past, Tomlin and the defensive coach have talked about the last season of the coach. The one-year extension ends after the 2021 season.
"Butz has had discussions about this being his last year," he said. We haven't had time to sit down. I'm interviewing players. We haven't had a detailed conversation about that because he's doing player interviews. We didn't play as well as we'd like. We need to get better in that area.
Kevin Colbert's contract as general manager expires in the year 2022, but Mike Tomlin is still working with him to come up with a plan for the off-season. The two talked about Colbert's future with the team.
"He and I have been talking about it," he said. I will leave it to Kevin to address any issues regarding him. Our plan is to proceed in the short term.