Steelers owner Art Rooney II says team is feeling pressure to win in playoffs: ‘We’ve had enough of this’

The Steelers have been the definition of consistent in the NFL under Mike Tomlin. Pittsburgh has not had a losing season, and it always ends the season in the conversation for the playoffs.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, losing early in the playoffs has also been a constant, and owner Art Rooney II made it clear he’s tired of the team leaving the postseason after what amounts to little more than a cameo.

“We’ve had enough of this,” Rooney said on Monday, according to ESPN. “It’s time to get some wins; it’s time to take these next steps.”

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Over the past six seasons, the Steelers have exceeded 10 wins only once. They’ve also won fewer than nine games only once. Their back-to-back campaigns of finishing third in the division have been the only two times the Steelers have placed below second in the AFC North since 2012.

As impressive as Pittsburgh’s ability to always be competitive in the regular season has been, it has not resulted in the team even lucking into a playoff win. The Steelers last won a playoff game in the 2016 season, when they beat the Dolphins in the wild-card round and the Chiefs in the divisional round before losing to the Patriots in the conference championship.

Since then, it’s been a string of early defeats for Pittsburgh.

Season Record Seed Round Opponent Result
2017 13-3 2 Divisional vs. Jaguars L, 45-42
2018 9-6-1 Missed
2019 8-8 Missed
2020 12-4 3 Wild card vs. Browns L, 48-37
2021 9-7-1 7 Wild card at Chiefs L, 42-21
2022 9-8 Missed
2023 10-7 7 Wild card at Bills L, 31-17

Rooney’s statement comes not long after it was reported Tomlin would be returning for his 18th season as the head coach of the Steelers. Though Tomlin has been the head coach for Pittsburgh’s string of disappointing playoff defeats, Rooney still has confidence that Tomlin is the right coach for the team.

“I think the players still respond to Mike, and that’s No. 1,” Rooney said, per ESPN. “He still has the key characteristics that we saw when we hired him. He can keep the attention of a group of 20-year-olds for a whole season and keep them in the fight for the whole way.

“So, still feel good about Mike. Obviously, if I didn’t, [we] would make a change, but if we didn’t think Mike was able to lead us to a championship, he wouldn’t be here, and that’s why he is here.”

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It will be a pivotal offseason for the Steelers, and the road to make the playoffs — never mind win a playoff game — won’t be easy in 2024. Just in the AFC North, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens will be looking to defend their division title, Joe Burrow and the Bengals will benefit from a last-place schedule, and the Browns still boast a ferocious defense with Deshaun Watson coming back from injury.

The Steelers still need to hire an offensive coordinator after letting go of Matt Canada midseason following a disappointing run as Pittsburgh’s offensive playcaller. On top of that, Pittsburgh might have the biggest quarterback question in the division. The team’s first-round pick in 2022, Kenny Pickett, was supposed to take a leap in 2023, particularly after a breakout performance in the preseason. However, he largely struggled when healthy, completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,070 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions in 12 games.

Mason Rudolph ended the season as the starter due to an injury to Pickett and a strong performance late in the year, as he appeared to run a far more competent offense in place of Pickett. Rudolph completed 74.3 percent of his passes for 719 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in four games (three starts).

Rudolph is a free agent at the end of the season, and Rooney made it clear he wanted to bring him back, saying that he doesn’t believe the Steelers have seen his ceiling. However, he still made it clear there is confidence in Pickett long-term.

“We still feel good about Kenny Pickett and his future, but he knows he needs to work hard to take the next step,” Rooney said. “And we’ve talked about that, and one of the things I think we liked about Kenny in terms of his career at Pitt was how hard he worked, and he took a step every year. So, we’re looking for that to happen here.”


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