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Steelers takeaways: 3 initial thoughts from Mike Tomlin’s exit press conference

My initial thoughts on Mike Tomlin’s final press conference of the season

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

I’m somewhere in the middle of cautiously hopeful and disappointed, but not surprised about the potential of what the Steelers will look like in 2024.

Mike Tomlin said two very key things in his exit presser on Thursday:

  • Kenny Pickett will be back with outside competition brought in
  • They will look at outside candidates for the offensive coordinator position, and said candidates are wanted to have previous OC experience

Here are my initial takeaways on Tomlin’s comments.

Pressley Harvin won’t be back

I’ll begin with some positive news in terms of production at the punter position. Not to celebrate someone losing their job, that’s never the intent, but Harvin is awful and the Steelers need a new punter. Tomlin was asked about Harvin and he acknowledged Harvin was not consistent at the end of the season- which was certainly a very kind way of putting that. I wouldn’t expect Harvin to be the Week 1 punter in 2024.

Shane Waldron will be the next OC

That’s my guess. Tomlin highlighted that previous play-calling experience is something he wants in the next offensive coordinator, and Waldron fits that bill. Klint Kubiak does, as well, and I certainly won’t rule him out, but I’ll be bold and say Waldron will be the Steelers’ next OC, which is something I would be very okay with. I pointed out in my list of potential coordinators piece, which you can go read here, that Waldron would be a great choice. His background in a McVay-esc offense, plus how he helped turn Geno Smith into a 4,000 yard, 30 touchdown quarterback speak for themselves. He is a forward-thinking, progressive play-caller, which is something the Steelers need to pull them out of the stone ages.

Kenny Pickett is going to start Week 1

I truly hope that Tomlin, and the organization as a whole, realize that Pickett isn’t the answer. That said, it certainly seems like their plan at quarterback is Pickett, hope to bring back Rudolph for the camp competition, and a mid-round draft pick. If that’s what they do, everyone has every right to be angry and to be continually critical of Tomlin. He has a ginormous say into who will be under center, and that approach would not be a serious one as it pertains to winning a championship. I like Mason Rudolph, but he is not a franchise quarterback. He’s better than Pickett, but that certainly isn’t a high bar. Rudolph is a very good No. 2 option or a bridge starter, but the Steelers cannot run this back. A new, legitimate quarterback needs to be brought in. By the way Tomlin was speaking, I’m hesitant to believe any major moves will be made at that position.

That said, maybe I just have PTSD from the past few seasons, and perhaps a big splash will be made and this was more or less Tomlin just saving face and attempting to protect Pickett. Regardless, I’m going to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That didn’t sound like the language of a guy who was planning on getting a Kirk Cousins, Justin Fields, or Baker Mayfield. That reeked of Jacoby Brissett or Ryan Tannehill. Nothing against those guys, but you aren’t winning any games of importance with them under center. I’ll be biting my nails until we find out who this veteran quarterback will be.

My immediate guess is Mason Rudolph signs elsewhere, and the Steelers go into 2024 with Pickett, a middling vet (Brissett, Tannehill caliber) and a mid-round draft pick. I hope I’m very wrong. Because T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick aren’t getting younger. And are the Steelers really going to be okay with wasting another year of their careers, while also wasting what may be Cam Heyward’s final season? Again, I hope I’m wrong, but I find it difficult to be hopeful after the lack of goodwill the organization has built up these last two years. Let’s hope for a legitimate move to be made, and for a season that we can look forward to watching rather than praying for it to end.