Steelers President Art Rooney II met with a group of reporters Wednesday afternoon to discuss the team’s potential off-season plans, and to address some pressing questions pertaining to the team.
When a team as talented as Pittsburgh fails to make the post-season, questions begin to arise around the organization in an attempt to figure out a solution. 2018 was undoubtedly disappointing, but decision makers of the likes of Rooney must face the music at some point down the line.
Per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rooney said the 2018 season was tough to swallow, yet it wasn’t as disastrous as people made it out to be. “We didn’t achieve our goal of winning the division but we finished half a game out and had a lot of opportunities to get there” said Rooney.
Rooney expanded on a variety on topics, including the status of Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who is still recovering from a spinal injury suffered in 2017. According to Rooney, Shazier is still working towards the goal of getting back on the field, however the Steelers would need to sign him to a new contract in order for him to do so, if he’s able to successfully recover.
Another topic of discussion became contract negotiations, for a handful of people. Rooney is making it a goal to extend quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s contract this off-season, a goal the organization has held for a while. Another potential extension was expected for head coach Mike Tomlin, yet Rooney isn’t quite ready to make that happen with two years left on Tomlin’s deal, citing the team will handle that later in the off-season.
One issue pertaining to Tomlin in 2018 was his inability to correctly utilize his coaches challenges, losing the last 8/9 challenges he attempted. Rooney spoke with Tomlin about another member of the staff potentially helping him in that area, although no official designations have been made yet.
Rooney’s view on the 2018 season came with a lot of challenges throughout the year, but ultimately the team fell short of his goals. When asked about Tomlin’s performance, Rooney responded “When you miss the playoffs, nobody gets absolved.. I think everybody knows we need to do better, including Mike”.
Playing to the same tune as many fans, Rooney pointed to two factors that needed improvement: The Steelers kicking issues, and the lack of forcing turnovers on the defensive side of the ball. Rooney however mentioned the defense did improve in 2018, yet the secondary still needed improvement.
Absent from 2018’s disappointing season was running back Le’Veon Bell, who held out the entirety of the season due to failed contract negotiations. Rooney said he had no idea Bell would hold out the duration of the season, but said he “feels good” about the Steelers running back situation without Bell due to the play of James Conner and Jaylen Samuels this season, potentially signaling Bell won’t be back in a Steelers uniform.
Last but certainly not least, Rooney furthered his original statements on wide receiver Antonio Brown just a week ago. Rooney updated his situation in regards to Brown, stating he still has not had any contact with Brown. No teams have contacted the Steelers either about Brown per Rooney, stating they have not engaged in any trade talks about Brown.
When asked about Brown returning to the Steelers, Rooney is still keeping the door open for all possibilities, but stated “not that many signs out there that that’s going to happen”.
While no moves have been officially decided, it appears the Steelers front office is well aware of the state of the organization. Now, it’s up to Rooney and General Manager Kevin Colbert to right the ship and gear the Steelers up for the 2019 season.