The Pittsburgh Steelers have entered a concerning late-season slide, amplifying speculation about major offseason changes – particularly regarding the future of long-time head coach Mike Tomlin.
Tomlin’s Job Security Questioned Amid Losing Streak
The Steelers have lost 4 of their last 5 games, falling to 5-8 on the season. While Tomlin has never had a losing season in 16 years as Pittsburgh’s coach, there is growing scrutiny over the team’s regression the past two seasons after repeatedly falling short of Super Bowl expectations .
NFL analysts have debated whether it would be best for both Tomlin and the Steelers to mutually part ways this offseason . Tomlin, only 51, could attract interest from other teams needing an established, winning coach. The Steelers, meanwhile, could seek a fresh voice to lead their rebuild around young QB Kenny Pickett.
Mike Tomlin's Record with the Pittsburgh Steelers
Seasons Record Playoff Appearances Super Bowl Wins
16 156-86-2 9 1
Tomlin supporters argue changing coaches risks backfiring for a historically stable franchise . Former NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman insisted firing Tomlin would be the Steelers’ “biggest mistake ever” . However, other pundits believe the game is passing Tomlin by as Pittsburgh struggles to adapt schematically on both sides of the ball .
Roster and Staff Changes Seem Imminent
Regardless if Tomlin returns in 2024, major offseason shakeups appear inevitable for the Steelers. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s contract expires after this season, with team reporter Gerry Dulac stating “no assistants should be considered safe” . The defense has declined sharply from its 2020 dominance and injuries have further depleted the unit.
The offense also needs enhanced talent at receiver and offensive line. And depending on the quarterback situation, letting veterans like DL Cam Heyward or LB T.J. Watt leave in cost-cutting moves cannot be ruled out. The team’s strict salary cap constraints, aging stars, and recent draft misses have left the roster thin on difference-makers entering the rebuild.
Steelers' Key Free Agents in 2023 Offseason
Pos Name 2022 Salary
QB Mason Rudolph $4M
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster $3.5M
CB Cam Sutton $5M
CB Ahkello Witherspoon $4M
LB Robert Spillane $3.5M
Doubts About Tomlin’s Motivational Impact
Amid the losing, team beat writers have noted the Steelers seeming less inspired and focused under Tomlin during this stretch run . Dulac questioned whether Tomlin’s message has “grown stale” and his ability to motivate players without a top-tier quarterback .
Others attribute the lackluster effort to the team’s fading playoff hopes rather than deficiencies by Tomlin. One theory is that losing old veterans from last year’s defensive nucleus (Stephon Tuitt, Joe Haden) robbed Pittsburgh of essential leadership . But poor accountability, discipline, and decision-making have plagued both the players and coaches at times during this collapse.
No Clear Successor if Tomlin Departs
The Steelers have not fired a head coach since Lyndon Johnson was President. As such, there is no obvious replacement if the team moves on from Tomlin. Defensive assistant Brian Flores and former Dolphins coach but lacks the offensive pedigree seemingly preferred. Retired QB Ben Roethlisberger advocates for quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan but his only coordinator experience came with the Giants from 2012-15.
Of course, the Steelers could again tap the talented pool of NFL coordinators with Pittsburgh ties, much as they did in hiring Tomlin and former coach Bill Cowher. Ownership might also seek to emulate arch-rival Baltimore’s success with young, offense-minded coach John Harbaugh. Ultimately, replacing a good coach still involves much uncertainty – dashing the hopes of impatient Steelers fans envisioning a quick turnaround.
Tomlin Rumors Could Dominate Steelers’ Offseason
The 2022 season concludes on January 8th in Pittsburgh. Shortly after, the Steelers brass must provide clarity on their plans at head coach. Team president Art Rooney II has communicated only that no decisions will occur until after play concludes. Whether the notoriously patient Rooney opts for sweeping changes after a mediocre season will set the tone for the critical offseason ahead.
Expect rampant speculation about Tomlin’s job status, potential trade packages, coordinator shuffling, free agency, and the draft until definitive announcements come from the Steelers. This presents a nervous time for players and fans alike concerning the direction Pittsburgh goes from here. For the first time in over a decade, meaningful uncertainty clouds the Steelers and iconic leader Mike Tomlin. Stay tuned this winter as the drama unfolds.