Nov 14, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) passes against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tomlin: Steelers will consider all options to find new starting QB

The Pittsburgh Steelers have known who their quarterback was for most of the past 18 seasons.

But with Ben Roethlisberger expected to announce his retirement, there suddenly is plenty of uncertainty over the team’s quarterback position.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday the team will consider a variety of options in which to find their new starting quarterback. Tomlin said he and general manager Kevin Colbert will discuss whether to proceed forward with an internal option, acquire a signal-caller via trade or free agency or select one in the NFL draft.

“All options are on the table,” Tomlin said during a media briefing two days after Pittsburgh’s season ended with a 42-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC wild-card game. “I enjoy working with Kevin this time of year because we speak plain English. We have to improve our football team. There’s two major ways you do it. You do it to free agency, and you do it through the draft.

“We have to look at what’s available to us in the draft positionally. And we have to look at what’s available to us, potentially, in free agency, positionally, and then we kind of bring those two discussions together. And it kind of gives us a path in which to go about addressing our needs.”

Replacing a future Hall of Famer like the 39-year-old Roethlisberger doesn’t seem insurmountable to Tomlin.

“I’m excited about that — that challenge,” Tomlin said. “Those of us that are competitors are. It’s a challenge, man. 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.”

One veteran quarterback who may be available via trade is Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. Quarterbacks who could become free agents include Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Andy Dalton and Nick Foles.

The internal options are Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.

Rudolph is 5-4-1 in 10 starts over the past three seasons. Eight of those starts came in 2019 after Roethlisberger sustained a season-ending elbow injury. Rudolph passed for 1,765 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions that year.

Haskins didn’t see any action for the Steelers this season. He went 3-10 as a starter over the previous two seasons for Washington before being released late in the 2020 campaign. He passed for 2,804 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

“Mason and Dwayne have had their moments, but they’ll have to prove that,” Tomlin said about the possibility one of them could be the team’s next starter. “And not only in the team development process but through playing itself. They’re guys that start that I wouldn’t characterize as every-day starters. And so they’ll be given an opportunity to establish themselves, and there’s going to be competition. There always is.

“I think that both guys have positioned themselves to fight that fight with what they’ve done from a work standpoint and a professionalism standpoint in 2021.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs guard Nick Allegretti (73) scores a touchdown during the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs smash Steelers in Big Ben’s likely finale

Patrick Mahomes passed for 404 yards and five touchdowns Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs began their bid for a third straight conference title by downing the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers 42-21 in the AFC wild-card round.

The loss likely will be the last NFL game for the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, who is expected to announce his retirement. The 39-year-old quarterback started slowly before finishing with 215 yards passing, going 29 of 44 with two touchdowns.

Kansas City, seeded No. 2 after winning nine of its last 10 regular-season games, will play at home again next Sunday in the divisional round, hosting the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo won at Kansas City 38-20 in Week 5.

“We’ve been to the Super Bowl the past two years and when you walk off that field with a loss last year, you want to go back and get revenge,” Mahomes said on the NBC broadcast. “For us, we understand it’s a hard division and we’ve got the Bills coming in here next week. We’re going to have to play our best football.”

The Chiefs scored touchdowns on six straight possessions bridging the two halves. A 1-yard lob to tackle-eligible Nick Allegretti and a 31-yard strike to Tyreek Hill boosted the lead to 35-7 before six minutes had elapsed in the second half.

Mahomes, who was intercepted once, went 30 of 39 on the night and reached 400 yards passing before the end of third period.

Jerick McKinnon, who has battled injuries and played sparingly, had 18 touches for a combined 142 yards rushing and receiving with a TD reception. Travis Kelce had 108 yards on five catches and threw a short TD pass on a trick play, one of two caught by Byron Pringle.

The seventh-seeded Steelers did not crack Kansas City territory until the second half when Roethlisberger connected for scores to Diontae Johnson and James Washington.

“He was No. 7,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of Roethlisberger. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure, man. I don’t have the words.”

The Chiefs gained 302 first-half yards and Mahomes fired three touchdowns, all in the second quarter, including a 45-yarder to Kelce with 13 seconds remaining for a 21-7 halftime margin.

“You’ve got to possess the ball when you’re playing that team and we didn’t maintain it,” Tomlin said.

McKinnon and Pringle caught first-half TDs of 4 and 12 yards, though the Chiefs had trouble getting untracked. On their first five possessions, they punted three times, Mahomes threw an interception and Darrel Williams lost a fumble.

T.J. Watt returned the fumble 24 yards to provide a 7-0 lead for the Steelers with 10:41 left in the half. However, Pittsburgh finished the half with just 44 total net yards, two first downs and punts on each of its seven series.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) warms up prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers face long odds to keep season alive at K.C.

The Super Bowl defeat suffered by the Kansas City Chiefs last season provides motivation entering the playoffs but remains a setback that can be compartmentalized.

After all, considerable work remains for the two-time reigning AFC champion before booking a Super Bowl appearance in mid-February. The path begins to unravel Sunday when the Chiefs host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round at Kansas City, Mo.

The Chiefs are easily the biggest favorites of Wildcard Weekend, with the line at 12.5 points at BetMGM and FanDuel. That has led to split action, with Pittsburgh backed by 55 percent of the bets and 50 percent of the spread-line money at BetMGM while Kansas City has been supported by 55 percent of both markets at FanDuel.

“It’s in the back of my mind but for the most part it’s a new year,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said about the NFL’s ultimate prize. “You’ve got to focus on things that have happened this year. We’re on a goal to prove to ourselves who we think we are, and we know we are, and that’s Super Bowl champions.”

The Pittsburgh matchup will be a rematch of a Dec. 26 clash Kansas City dominated 36-10 with Kelce sidelined in COVID-19 protocol. The Chiefs went on to go 12-5 while winning nine of their final 10 games and claiming their sixth consecutive AFC West title.

Kansas City has reached the AFC championship game in each of the previous three seasons, primarily engineered by stalwart quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“When you get to that playoff game day, you have a little bit different intensity knowing that every play is critical and it could really end your season by making a mistake,” Mahomes said. “At the same time, you want to be loose, you want to have fun and you want to enjoy it.”

Mahomes passed for 258 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting with the Steelers. The Chiefs also forced three turnovers and limited Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to 159 yards passing.

The Chiefs’ defensive intensity that day followed a trend that began after acquiring a longtime Steeler, Melvin Ingram. Ingram proved instrumental a week ago when he crashed into the backfield to generate a bone-jarring strip the Chiefs converted into a late touchdown return in a 28-24 win at Denver.

“He’s the swag champ,” Kelce said, adding that “you saw how much more fun people were having” after Ingram joined the defensive front.

At times, Mahomes has struggled with his accuracy, but he overcame an early-season rash of mistakes to lead the Chiefs to the league’s third-best production, 396.8 yards on average.

He passed for 4,839 yards while counting on Kelce and Tyreek Hill as 1,000-yard receivers. The committee approach to the backfield could continue with Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) ruled out and Darrel Williams (toe) listed as questionable.

Second-seeded Kansas City, a two-time Super Bowl champion, will make its seventh consecutive postseason appearance and last faced Pittsburgh in the playoffs in 2016. The Steelers won 18-16. Pittsburgh, a six-time Super Bowl champion, reached the playoffs for the second straight season but last won a postseason game in 2016.

Roethlisberger, whose career could end with the Steelers’ next loss as he considers retiring from football, lamented the long odds his team faces after going 9-7-1 and drawing the No. 7 seed.

“I would assume, as a group, you understand that we probably aren’t supposed to be here,” said Roethlisberger, who is dealing with a strained pectoral and shoulder.

“We probably are not a very good football team. Out of 14 teams I think are in, we’re probably number 14. We’re double-digit underdogs in the playoffs. So, let’s just go play, have fun and see what happens.”

Tongue in cheek? Probably. A dose of realism? Yes, that too.

Still, Pittsburgh got in by defeating Baltimore in the season finale and getting help from Jacksonville beating Indianapolis and Las Vegas beating the Los Angeles Chargers in overtime.

Running back Najee Harris (elbow) was deemed good to go on Saturday. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster also is expected to be activated from injured reserve, where he’s been since sustaining a shoulder injury in October. Cornerback Arthur Maulet (concussion) also has been cleared to play against the Chiefs.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gained some satisfaction getting to restrict the all-out aggression of Harris, a 1,200-yard rusher as a rookie.

“It’s a good issue and problem to have,” Tomlin said, “when you have a guy that’s wired the way that he’s wired.”

–Field Level Media

October 3, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers outside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (59) tackles Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Samantha Madar/Green Bay Press Gazette via USA TODAY NETWORK

Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster designated to return from IR

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster returned to practice on Thursday but remains on injured reserve.

The Steelers have 21 days to activate Smith-Schuster from IR.

Smith-Schuster sustained a shoulder injury in Pittsburgh’s 27-19 victory over the Denver Broncos on Oct. 10. He was expected to miss the remainder of the 2021 season after undergoing surgery.

It is not immediately known if he’ll be ready to play for Pittsburgh in its wild-card game at the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.

Smith-Schuster, 25, had 15 receptions for 129 yards and no touchdowns in five games this season. He signed a one-year, $8 million contract prior to the season.

A Pro Bowl selection in 2018, Smith-Schuster has 323 catches for 3,855 yards and 26 touchdowns in 63 career games. He was selected by Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (11) runs the ball against Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Joe Schobert (93) during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers face long odds vs. Chiefs, but neither team feels assured of anything

The Super Bowl defeat suffered by the Kansas City Chiefs last season provides motivation entering the playoffs but remains a setback that can be compartmentalized.

After all, considerable work remains for the two-time reigning AFC champion before booking a Super Bowl appearance in mid-February. The path begins to unravel Sunday when the Chiefs play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round at Kansas City, Mo.

“it’s in the back of my mind but for the most part it’s a new year,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said about the NFL’s ultimate prize. “You’ve got to focus on things that have happened this year. We’re on a goal to prove to ourselves who we think we are, and we know we are, and that’s Super Bowl champions.”

The Pittsburgh matchup will be a rematch of a Dec. 26 clash Kansas City dominated 36-10 with Kelce sidelined in COVID-19 protocol. The Chiefs went on to go 12-5 while winning nine of their last 10 games and claiming their sixth consecutive AFC West title.

Kansas City has reached the AFC championship game in each of the four seasons primarily engineered by stalwart QB Patrick Mahomes.

“When you get to that playoff game day, you have a little bit different intensity knowing that every play is critical and it could really end your season by making a mistake,” Mahomes said. “At the same time, you want to be loose, you want to have fun and you want to enjoy it.”

Mahomes passed for 258 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting with the Steelers. The Chiefs also forced three turnovers and limited Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to 159 yards passing.

The Chiefs’ defensive intensity that day followed a trend that began after acquiring a longtime Steeler, Melvin Ingram. Ingram proved instrumental a week ago when he crashed into the backfield to generate a bone-jarring strip the Chiefs converted into a late touchdown return in a 28-24 win at Denver.

“He’s the swag champ,” Kelce said, adding that “you saw how much more fun people were having” after Ingram joined the defensive front.

At times, Mahomes has struggled with his accuracy, but he overcame an early-season rash of mistakes to lead the Chiefs to the league’s third-best production, 396.8 yards on average.

He passed for 4,839 yards while counting on Kelce and Tyreek Hill as 1,000-yard receivers. The committee approach to the backfield could continue with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams coming off injuries.

Second-seeded Kansas City, a two-time Super Bowl champion, will make its seventh consecutive postseason appearance and last faced Pittsburgh in the 2016 playoffs. The Steelers won 18-16. Pittsburgh, a six-time Super Bowl champion, reached the playoffs for the second straight season but last won a postseason game in 2016.

Roethlisberger, whose career could end with the Steelers’ next loss as he considers retiring from football, lamented the long odds his team faces after going 9-7-1 and drawing the No. 7 seed.

“I would assume, as a group, you understand that we probably aren’t supposed to be here,” said Roethlisberger, who is dealing with a strained pectoral and shoulder.

“We probably are not a very good football team. Out of 14 teams I think are in, we’re probably number 14. We’re double-digit underdogs in the playoffs. So, let’s just go play, have fun and see what happens.”

Tongue in cheek? Probably. A dose of realism? Yes, that too.

Still, Pittsburgh got in by defeating Baltimore in the season finale and getting help from Jacksonville beating Indianapolis and Las Vegas beating the Los Angeles Chargers in overtime.

RB Najee Harris (ankle) and CB Arthur Maulet (concussion) were slowed at the beginning of preparations for the Chiefs.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gained some satisfaction getting to restrict the all-out aggression of Harris, a 1,200-yard rusher as a rookie.

“It’s a good issue and problem to have,” Tomlin said, “when you have a guy that’s wired the way that he’s wired.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws from the pocket  during the second  quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers nip Ravens in OT, keep playoff hopes alive

Chris Boswell booted a 36-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining in overtime to give the Pittsburgh Steelers a 16-13 victory over the host Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon.

The victory, combined with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ upset of the Indianapolis Colts, keeps the Steelers (9-7-1) alive in the AFC postseason race. Pittsburgh will claim the No. 7 postseason spot as long as the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders don’t play to a tie on Sunday night.

Baltimore (8-9) was eliminated with the loss, which was its sixth straight setback.

Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger completed 30 of 44 passes for 244 yards, one touchdown and one interception in what could have been his final regular-season appearance. Chase Claypool caught the scoring pass.

In the overtime, Roethlisberger completed third-down throws to Pat Freiermuth (14 yards) and Diontae Johnson (11) and a key 10-yard, fourth-down toss to Ray-Ray McCloud to help set up Boswell’s decisive kick.

Steelers star T.J. Watt had one sack to match the NFL record of 22.5 set by Michael Strahan of the New York Giants in 2001.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (ankle) missed his fourth consecutive game. Tyler Huntley filled in and completed 16 of 31 passes for 141 yards and two interceptions.

Latavius Murray rushed for a season-high 150 yards on 16 carries and scored Baltimore’s lone touchdown.

Baltimore outgained the Steelers 381 yards to 314.

Pittsburgh drove 50 yards on 10 plays to move ahead 13-10 with 2:54 remaining in regulation. Roethlisberger completed third-down passes of 20 yards to McCloud and 11 to Freiermuth to keep the drive alive prior to a 6-yard scoring pass to Claypool.

However, Baltimore answered by moving 40 yards on seven plays to set up Justin Tucker’s 46-yard field goal to tie it at 13 with 1:13 remaining.

Earlier, Murray broke free up the middle on a 46-yard touchdown run to give the Ravens a 10-3 lead with 12:32 left in the third quarter. Boswell kicked a 40-yard field goal with 7:41 left to move Pittsburgh within four.

Later in the period, Murray gained 22 and 27 yards on back-to-back rushes to help Baltimore reach the Steelers’ 12-yard line. But on the first play of the fourth quarter, Cameron Sutton intercepted Huntley in the end zone to keep Pittsburgh down 10-6.

Pittsburgh struck first on Boswell’s 28-yard field goal with 6:06 left in the opening quarter.

The Ravens tied the score on Tucker’s 24-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the half. Watt recorded his record-tying sack 12 seconds earlier.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) sack sBaltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley (2) during the second  quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers’ T.J. Watt ties NFL season sack record

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt matched the NFL’s official single-season sack record of 22.5 by corralling Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley in the final minute of the first half of Sunday’s game.

The sack allowed Watt to tie Michael Strahan, who set the record in 2001 for the New York Giants.

The Ravens had first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line when Huntley dropped back to pass and Watt recorded the big sack with 23 seconds left in the half.

The score was knotted at 3 at halftime.

Watt had 3.5 sacks against Baltimore in this season’s first meeting, won 20-19 by the Steelers on Dec. 5.

Sacks didn’t become an official stat until 1982. Al “Bubba” Baker of the Detroit Lions registered 23 in 1978, an unofficial record.

–Field Level Media

Feb 27, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert speaks to media during the 2019 NFL Combine at Indianapolis Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Steelers GM Kevin Colbert expected to retire after draft

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, one of the architects of two Super Bowl-winning teams, is expected to retire after the 2022 NFL Draft, NFL Network reported Sunday.

His contract runs through the draft.

With the all-but-official retirement of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers will be looking to fill two major roles before the 2022 season.

Colbert began his NFL career in 1985 as a scout for the Miami Dolphins, then moved on the role as director of scouting for the Detroit Lions before the Steelers named him director of football operations in 2000. He was promoted to general manager in 2011 and added the team vice president title in 2016.

NFL Network said Omar Khan, the VP of football and business administration, and pro scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt would be candidates to replace Colbert.

During Colbert’s time in Pittsburgh, the Steelers have been to three Super Bowls and have a record of 225-124-3 entering Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (23) talks with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) before the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers activate Joe Haden, Kendrick Green off COVID list

Pittsburgh Steelers veteran cornerback Joe Haden and rookie center Kendrick Green were activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday.

The move comes one day after wide receiver Diontae Johnson was activated from a one-day stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

The Steelers (8-7-1) visit the Baltimore Ravens (8-8) on Sunday in the regular-season finale. Pittsburgh can clinch a playoff berth win a win as well as an Indianapolis Colts’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and any result other than a tie in the Las Vegas Raiders-Los Angeles Chargers game.

Haden, 32, has 34 tackles in 11 games (all starts) this season. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has 611 tackles and 29 interceptions in 157 games (148 starts) in 12 seasons with the Cleveland Browns (2010-16) and Steelers.

Green, 23, started the Steelers’ first 15 games this season before sitting out their 26-14 victory over the Browns on Monday with a calf injury. He was selected by Pittsburgh in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Illinois.

The Steelers also placed wide receiver James Washington on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) runs the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers WR Dionte Johnson off COVID list after 1 day

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson was activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday, just one day after he was placed on it.

The Steelers (8-7-1) visit the Baltimore Ravens (8-8) on Sunday in the regular-season finale. Pittsburgh can clinch a playoff berth win a win as well as an Indianapolis Colts’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and any result other than a tie in the Las Vegas Raiders-Los Angeles Chargers game.

Johnson erupted for 105 receiving yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s 20-19 victory over Baltimore on Dec. 5.

Johnson, 25, has recorded team-leading — and career-high — totals in catches (100), receiving yards (1,110) and receiving touchdowns (eight) in 15 games (14 starts) this season. He has 247 catches for 2,713 yards and 20 scores in 46 career games since being selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Cornerback Joe Haden and rookie center Kendrick Green remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh also announced linebacker Buddy Johnson has been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.

–Field Level Media