Tue Jan 18 2:26pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin watches from the sideline during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
PITTSBURGH (AP) For the first time in Mike Tomlin's long tenure as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he enters the offseason unsure of who his starting quarterback will be in the fall.
The only certainty is that it won't be Ben Roethlisberger, who has given every indication he will retire after an 18-year career.
Maybe it'll be Mason Rudolph, who has spent four years as an understudy with mixed results and is currently the only quarterback on the roster under contract for next season. Maybe it'll be Dwayne Haskins, who flamed out in Washington before being given a lifeline by Tomlin last January. Maybe it'll be a rookie. Or maybe a veteran free agent in need of a job.
To Tomlin, it's a little exciting. And yeah, maybe a little weird.
''It's a challenge, man,'' Tomlin said Tuesday after his 15th season at the helm ended with a thud in a blowout loss to Kansas City in the opening round of the playoffs. ''It kind of makes you uneasy. But I've learned to run to those challenges. I've learned to appreciate those challenges. The uncertainty surrounding them is inspiring to me in terms of producing work.''
Rudolph is 5-4-1 in his career as a starter, but struggled in his lone extended appearance this season, throwing a touchdown and an interception i n an ugly tie with Detroit in November after Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19. Haskins flamed out in less than two seasons with Washington after being taken with the 15th overall pick in 2019 and served as Pittsburgh's third quarterback in 2021.
''They're guys that started,'' Tomlin said. ''I wouldn't characterize them as everyday starters ... And so they'll be given an opportunity to establish themselves, and there's going to be competition.''
Tomlin has made no secret that he'd like to find a quarterback who can move, something that hasn't been in Roethlisberger's toolbox for several years.
''Man, quarterback mobility is valued not only by me, but everyone is just a component of today's game and increasingly so,'' Tomlin said.
While the identity of whoever might run the offense in 2022 is a mystery, there appears to be some clarity on who will be calling the plays. Tomlin acknowledged the offense fell short under first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada while ranking in the bottom half of the league in yards and points, but hinted Canada will be given another shot.
''I'm not expressing satisfied satisfaction with any component of (the offense),'' he said. ''I'm just acknowledging that, you know, he brings things to the table that are attractive and we need to be better and we will be.''
The situation appears more unsettled elsewhere on the coaching staff and front office. Pittsburgh shook up the staff after playoff losses in 2017 and 2020, and the next few weeks could be no different.
General manager Kevin Colbert, whose contract is up after the draft and just celebrated his 65th birthday, has hinted he may be ready to move into a more advisory role after more than two decades with the club. Longtime defensive coordinator Keith Butler, who turns 66 in May, has indicated in informal conversations that his 19th season with the organization will be his last.
The Steelers have won two Super Bowls and been to three during Butler's long run, but the defense had its worst statistical season in 30 years and finished last against the run. A logical replacement for Butler is already on staff in Teryl Austin, who served as an assistant coach on three teams that reached the Super Bowl and joined the Steelers as a senior defensive assistant and secondary coach in 2019.
Pittsburgh could also look in-house to fill the offensive line coach opening created when Adrian Klemm left last month to take the same job at Oregon. Chris Morgan filled in over the final three games and the Steelers had their best rushing performance in four years in a victory over Cleveland on Jan. 3 in what was likely Roethlisberger's final home game.
For a team built on continuity, there could be considerable roster turnover - at least by Pittsburgh standards - over the next few months. The Steelers have more than $40 million to spend in free agency, a number that could rise with additional roster moves before the league year officially begins.
The status of veterans such as defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu is unknown. Alualu was lost for the season after fracturing his ankle in Week 2 and Tuitt didn't play at all after undergoing knee surgery over the summer. They are on the books for a combined $11.5 million and Tomlin said he has yet to talk to them about 2022.
There will be difficult discussions in the coming weeks. Talks made necessary after going ''one and done'' in the playoffs for the third time in five years.
''I understand change is a part of our business and, you know, I don't run away from it,'' he said. ''I'm not overly resistant to it. I don't run to it as well. I don't change for the sake of changing. I'm open to change where appropriate.''
Updating previous reports, Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker (concussion) was cleared by physicians at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and is on his way back home to Arizona on Tuesday, Jan. 18, according to a team source.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds failed to create much noise against the Los Angeles Rams. He rushed eight times for 28 yards in Monday's Wild Card round loss. Edmonds entered the season as the main option, but that quickly changed. James Conner took advantage of his chances and finished with a career-high 15 touchdowns. It doesn't help that Edmonds missed a majority of the second half of the season due to injuries. He rushed a career-high 116 times for 592 yards in 2021. Also, Edmonds hauled in 43-of-53 targets for 311 scoreless yards through the air. He is set to become a free agent this offseason, but doesn't exactly have the stats to back him up. Edmonds certainly has potential, but always seems to end up falling behind someone on the depth chart. Hopefully, he can find the right fit for himself this offseason.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is expected to move on from the Steelers as head coach Mike Tomlin said they're proceeding with the assumption he's done in Pittsburgh.
Fantasy Spin: Big Ben is expected to retire, and the team may pivot to Mason Rudolph. Rudolph would be a QB2 in fantasy if he were to land the starting gig.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk saw an increased role with the team over the final month of the season. The Cardinals were without DeAndre Hopkins (knee) which meant Kirk became the No. 1 option for this team. Kirk did what he could versus the Los Angeles Rams during their Wild Card matchup on Sunday. He hauled in six of his 10 targets for 51 yards in the loss. Kirk has set himself up nicely for free agency with a strong campaign during his fourth season. He posted 77 receptions and 982 yards which are both career highs for Kirk. It seems likely that some organization is going to give Kirk a nice payday this offseason. He has shown that he's not quite a No. 1 option, but he certainly can do damage on the field.
Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has been requested for an interview for the Minnesota Vikings' head coaching position.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has likely taken his last snap in the NFL. The organization is under the assumption that the 40-year-old quarterback won't return in 2022. That being said, Mason Rudolph would be the next option in line. He is currently signed through the 2022 season. It appears Rudolph is in line to start next season unless the Steelers make a move in free agency or the NFL Draft. It's uncertain what direction the Steelers plan to go next year. Although, it seems possible that they let Rudolph play quarterback for one season and attempt to secure a high draft pick for a QB in 2023. There are plenty of options on the table for Pittsburgh, but it appears Big Ben will not be one of them.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is unlikely to suit up for the organization again, according to general manager Nick Caserio. Watson sat out the entire 2021 season due to the fact he faces more than 20 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct. That being said, the price for Watson is uncertain due to this ongoing legal situation. The Miami Dolphins were reportedly interested in Watson, but have dropped out of the sweepstakes after firing head coach Brian Flores. At this point, there doesn't seem to be any other organizations seeking Watson. The Texans seem set with giving Davis Mills another shot under center. He showed flashes of potential during his rookie campaign in 2021. The Watson trade rumors are likely going to heat up this offseason, but it appears Houston is officially done with Watson.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray completed 19-of-34 passes for 137 yards and two interceptions in Monday night's 34-11 Wild-Card Round loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He also threw for a successful two-point conversion. He looked rattled against the Rams and was 4-of-12 for 22 yards and an interception while under pressure. The 24-year-old threw a pick-six while inside their own four-yard line and later picked off again during Arizona's next offensive drive. Despite the abysmal performance in Monday's playoff loss, Murray did have a successful 2021 season. He threw for 3,787 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions while rushing for 423 yards and five scores in 14 games. The former No.1 overall pick will be a low-end QB1 heading into 2022 fantasy drafts.
Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner rushed four times for 19 yards and a touchdown in Monday's 34-11 wild-card round loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He also caught one of two targets for five yards. The 26-year-old punched it in from two yards out in the third quarter for Arizona's only touchdown of the game. Conner signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals and finished third in the league in total touchdowns. He rushed for 752 yards and 15 touchdowns while catching 37 of 39 targets for 375 yards and three scores. It's unclear if Conner will return to Arizona in 2022, but he will have plenty of interest from teams searching for a running back in free agency after his fantastic 2021 campaign.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught all four of his targets for 54 yards and a touchdown in Monday's 34-11 Wild-Card Round win over the Arizona Cardinals. Rams QB Matthew Stafford connected with Beckham for a four-yard touchdown during the team's second offensive drive. The former Cleveland Brown has now scored in four of his last five games. Since joining the Rams, Beckham has hauled in 31 receptions for 359 yards and six touchdowns over nine games. The 29-year-old will have a vital role as one of Stafford's top targets in Sunday's NFC Divisional-Round matchup versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers rushed 17 times for 55 yards in Monday night's 34-11 Wild-Card round win over the Arizona Cardinals. He also caught one of two targets for 40 yards. He came off the bench but out carried starter Sony Michel 17-to-13. The 22-year-old averaged 3.2 yards per carry but looked impressive in his second game back. The 22-year-old is less than six months removed from a torn Achilles. Akers will split carries with Michel but should have a vital role in Sunday's NFC Divisional-Round matchup versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Updating a previous report, Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker (concussion) had movement and feeling in his extremities as he left the field. He was alert and communicative.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 13-of-17 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns in Monday's 34-11 wild-card round win over the Arizona Cardinals. He also rushed six times for 22 yards and another score. Stafford connected with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for a four-year score in the first quarter to put the Rams on the board. The 33-year-old punched it in from the one-yard line and capped off his day with a seven-yard touchdown to star wideout Cooper Kupp. Stafford was impressive in Monday's win and will look to build on his performance in Sunday's NFC divisional-round matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught five of seven targets for 61 yards and a touchdown in Monday's 34-11 wild-card round win over the Arizona Cardinals. After an uncharacteristically quiet first half (1-5-0), he finished the game strong by catching four passes for 55 yards and a score. Rams QB Matthew Stafford connected with the star wide receiver for a seven-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The 28-year-old led the Rams in all receiving categories and has now scored in four straight games. Kupp will look to continue his impressive run in Sunday's NFC divisional-round against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford completed 13-of-17 passes for 202 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the NFC wild-card game win over the Arizona Cardinals Monday, Jan. 17, and he also ran six times for 22 yards and a score. RB Sony Michel rushed 13 times for a team-high 58 yards, while RB Cam Akers rushed 17 times for 55 yards. WR Cooper Kupp added five grabs for 61 yards and a score, while WR Odell Beckham Jr. had four receptions or 54 yards and a touchdown while also completing a 40-yard pass to Akers. TE Tyler Higbee ended up with three catches for 46 yards, and WR Van Jefferson rounded things out with a 41-yard catch on his only reception. CB David Long also got into the scoring act with a 3-yard interception return for touchdown in the second quarter.
Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray completed 19-of-34 passes for 137 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in the NFC wild-card game loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday, Jan. 17. RB Chase Edmonds rushed eight times for a team-high 28 yards, while RB James Conner rushed four times for 19 yards and a touchdown while adding one grab for five yards. WR Christian Kirk led the way with 51 yards on six receptions and 10 targets, while WR Rondale Moore chipped in with five grabs for 32 yards. RB Eno Benjamin ran four times for seven yards, while contributing two catches and 26 yards, TE Zach Ertz had three grabs for 21 yards and WR A.J. Green was blanked on three targets.
Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker (head) was carted off the field due to an apparent head injury suffered in the NFC wild-card game Monday, Jan. 17 against the Los Angeles Rams after a helmet-to-helmet collision.