Earlier this week, we polled Steelers fans about their confidence in the team and how they felt about Mike Tomlin’s confirmed return for the 2024 NFL season. Here’s what they had to say.
Unsurprisingly, Steelers fan confidence drops after wild-card loss.
Just last week ahead of the Steelers’ wild card matchup against the Bills, 69% of Steelers fans polled said they were confident in the team’s direction. In that same poll, another 62% of fans said they expected a win over Buffalo, despite being heavy road underdogs who were set to be without their star edge rusher T.J. Watt.
Naturally, after that “unexpected” loss, a portion of that same fan base has now lost that confidence.
Maybe expectations were set just a bit too high for the wild card game. After all, heading into this game, the Steelers were just 1-10 without Watt. They were going up against a surging Buffalo Bills team that had been undefeated since their Week 13 bye, including wins over the Chiefs, Cowboys and Dolphins. That win over the Dolphins secured their fourth consecutive AFC East title after a 5-5 slump to start the year. In short, this was a strong football team that’d overcome many of the same challenging circumstances the Steelers had — including the firing of their offensive coordinator and a number of key injuries on defense.
The one thing they had that the Steelers didn’t? A quarterback. A gamer. Mason Rudolph played about as well as one could have expected a third-string quarterback to perform in the playoffs, closing out the game with 229 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception, completing passes at a 56.4% clip — his lowest completion rate this season. He kept them in it, though, and in doing so, probably played himself into another contract, whether with the Steelers or elsewhere, to keep his NFL dreams alive for just a bit longer.
Further compounding the lack of confidence in the direction of the Steelers beyond the loss at face value is in part also the question of whether or not anything will really change in the years to come. It’s been 17 consecutive seasons without a losing record and not enough to show for it. It was another season of playing down to bad competition but managing to come up big. That kind of winning, even though it’s still winning, is maddening. A fifth consecutive playoff loss? That’s maddening.
What will change in 2024? Not the head coach, at least... which brings us to our next survey result.
45% of Steelers fans were ‘disappointed’ to hear Mike Tomlin would return for another season.
Just 28% of fans considered themselves “elated” that Tomlin would return, and another 27% of fans said they had no opinion either way. It’s not particularly surprising to hear that some fans hoped Tomlin would move on, either via trade or by Art Rooney II giving him the axe; fans had been calling for it intermittently throughout the entire season. It’s fair to say, though, that just about everyone knew there was never actually a chance either of those things would happen; it’s just not the Steelers’ way.
Still, it is perhaps even just a little bit surprising that the number of fans who hoped Tomlin would move on is as high as 45%. After all, it was a 10-7 finish (5-1 in the division) and another trip to the playoffs despite their position in one of the most competitive divisions in all of football.
Still, will anything really change? Quarterback Kenny Pickett will be back in 2024, of course, and by the looks of it will have every opportunity to resume his starting role as long as he is able to stand up to any competition brought in around him. While many teams around the league are conducting interviews for offensive coordinators, the Steelers have been quiet. So, what will change? We’ll soon find out... but hopefully, the thing that changes is Mike Tomlin’s playoff record. Cheers to snapping that losing playoff streak in 2024.
Did you vote in this week’s poll? Tell us how you voted, whether you agree with the majority of poll voters and discuss this round of Steelers Reacts results in the comments section!