Art Rooney II believes the Pittsburgh Steelers are building toward a breakthrough season. The team’s president also feels that he has the coach in place to lead them there. Rooney addressed both Mike Tomlin as well as Pittsburgh’s recent lack of playoff success during his annual meeting with select media members.
First, let’s get to Rooney’s comments on Tomlin, whose 2023 season was nothing short of whacky. Tomlin took a lot of outside heat during the team’s three-game losing streak, as many began to wonder if he would be back in Pittsburgh in 2024.
Tomlin and the Steelers responded by winning their final three games of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs. During that time, the reports no longer questioned the Steelers’ interest in keeping Tomlin, but whether or not Tomlin would want to remain in Pittsburgh. Tomlin has since acknowledged that he’ll be back in 2024 and will likely sign an extension this offseason.
“The players still respond to Mike, and that’s No. 1,” Rooney said, via the team’s official website. “He can keep the attention of 20-year-olds for a whole season and keep them in the fight the whole way. If I didn’t feel Mike could lead us to a championship, he wouldn’t be here.”
It’s hard to argue with Rooney here. While some fans and media members are sick of hearing it, the fact remains that Tomlin has never had a losing season. That speaks to his ability to connect with his team regardless of the circumstances.
But while they’re always competitive, you can’t ignore the Steelers’ lack of recent playoff success. Pittsburgh hasn’t won a playoff game since 2016, an eternity for a franchise that prides itself on Super Bowls.
The lack of recent playoff success isn’t lost on Rooney.
“We’ve had enough of this,” he said. “It’s time to get some wins. It’s time to take these next steps. There’s some urgency there, for sure.”
Like Tomlin, Rooney feels that the Steelers are closer toward contending for a Super Bowl more now than they were a year ago, when they finished 9-8 and missed the playoffs. The Steelers were 10-7 this season, but that’s a pretty good record given that the team fired an offensive coordinator and had instability at quarterback.
Speaking of quarterback, Rooney feels that it is paramount to get on better ground there if the Steelers are going to be a legitimate contender in 2024. In order to help make that happen, Rooney is hoping that the Steelers can re-sign Mason Rudolph so that he can provide competition for Kenny Pickett.
“In terms of the next step, we need to do everything we can to make sure we get quality out of our QB position going forward,” Rooney said. “We still feel good about Kenny Pickett and his future, but he knows he has to work hard to take the next step.”
While the goal is always a Super Bowl, it’s clear that, based on Rooney’s comments, snapping the team’s playoff winless drought is the bar for the 2024 Steelers. What happens over the next several months will help determine whether or not the Steelers hit and possibly exceed that bar.