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Mike Tomlin is staying in Pittsburgh, but what’s next?

This is the most important off-season in recent memory for the Steelers

AFC Wildcard Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

In a meeting held with the team, Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin said he would be returning for the 2024 season. Tomlin is entering the final year of his contract, but said that any sort of reports about him stepping away is “unfounded.”

Now that the Steelers have that clarity, they cannot be passive this offseason. Some of this may be regurgitated from how I ended my post-game piece, but stick with me.

For starters, Tomlin needs to make a big splash at offensive coordinator. No more Randy Fichtners, no more Matt Canadas. If the Steelers hire from within, they are telling their fans they are not serious about winning games that matter and are content with being good enough to get beat by great teams. There are several names that would be great hires. Tomlin and the Steelers could target an experienced name like Shane Waldron in Seattle, who helped Geno Smith turn his career around and made Seattle’s offense dynamic. Klint Kubiak in San Francisco is the 49ers pass game coordinator, and he’s been an offensive coordinator in the league before with the Vikings. In that year with Minnesota, Kirk Cousins threw for over 4,200 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a passer rating of 103.1- I’m sold. Another name I’d be particularly interested in are Jerrod Johnson, who is currently the quarterbacks coach for the Texans. There is a plethora of other names that I’ll dive further into in the near future in a whole separate piece on offensive coordinator candidates that I’d like to see get the call from Pittsburgh, but the point is there are a ton of guys out there- go get one.

Immediately after getting that offensive coordinator, they need to figure out the quarterback position. If they want to draft a guy, then trade up and get them. Too much emphasis is put in the value of draft picks. Would the Steelers have to give up some picks to trade up to the No. 5 spot to get a Jayden Daniels? Probably. But if they do and Daniels turns out to be a stud, it’s worth exchanging the No. 20 pick, as well as a second, next year’s first and maybe one or two mid-round picks for the rights to draft him.

I was talking to Matt Verderame of Sports Illustrated about this and he pointed out that the Chiefs traded up from No. 27 to No. 10 to draft Patrick Mahomes. In exchange, they exchanged first round picks, traded the 91st overall pick, and the following year’s first-round pick. Do you think the Chiefs were worried about draft picks? No, they saw a guy that could change the course of their franchise and did what had to be done to get him. That’s not to say that anyone in this class will be Mahomes, but if the Steelers like a guy and he ends up being good, then it’s worth making a Chiefs-type trade to move up and get him.

That same mindset applies to Justin Fields. They’d be able to give up less than what they’d give up for a draft-day trade to get Fields- he’s not garnering a first-round pick. If the Steelers like Fields and the Bears are willing to do business, send them second and fifth- round picks and call it a day. For reference, Sam Darnold went for a sixth-rounder and then second and fourth-round picks in the following year’s draft. Fields will go for more than that in terms of the value of the picks, but the total number of picks would be around the same.

Mike Tomlin, and the Steelers as a franchise, cannot be passive this off-season. It’s time to leave that way of thinking in the past. Keeping Tomlin around is fine, but it can’t be business as usual, and they certainly can’t just run it back with Kenny Pickett and/or Mason Rudolph. Be serious about winning in January. Because it’s been a very long time since a playoff win took place in Pittsburgh, and enough is enough.