Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers held himself accountable after his team suffered its third straight loss during Week 15. But he also appeared to indirectly throw a diss to quarterback Mitch Trubisky with one of his answers to the media in his postgame press conference.
When asked why he elected to punt from the Indianapolis Colts 39-yard line late in the third quarter when trailing by 11, Tomlin implied Trubisky’s poor throw on the previous down played a role in his decision.
“Not a lot had gone in our way to that juncture to make me feel good about banging a 57-yard field goal,” Tomlin answered to why he chose to punt. “Particularly on the down before, I thought we might take a shot or check it down, and we end up throwing the ball out of bounds.
“So I didn’t like that field positioning.”
On the play Tomlin was referring to, Trubisky targeted wide receiver George Pickens on third-and-14. But Trubisky’s throw was closer to players on the bench than it was to Pickens.
Trubisky had another poor throw on Pittsburgh’s next drive, which resulted in an interception. Tomlin benched Trubisky in favor of Mason Rudolph after that interception.
Trubisky finished 16 of 23 for 169 yards with a touchdown, 2 interceptions and 3 sacks against the Colts. He also had a rushing touchdown.
Rudolph went 2-for-3 for 3 yards and took a sack.
In his postgame press conference, Tomlin wouldn’t commit to either quarterback for Week 16.
“I don’t have answers as I sit here right now. I know that we better do some things differently,” Tomlin said. “We better approach some things differently. We’re not going to roll that ball out there like that next week.”
Mike Tomlin Benches Mitch Trubisky in Week 15
His answer to why he didn’t want to attempt a 57-yard field goal was about as elaborate Tomlin got with any of his responses after Week 15.
When asked why he benched Trubisky for Rudolph, Tomlin provided a very brief and generic answer.
“We didn’t do enough of anything well today.”
With Rudolph, Tomlin may have been searching for an offensive spark. But there was only 2:08 remaining, and the Steelers trailed by 14 when Rudolph took his first snap.
Perhaps Tomlin simply wanted Rudolph to receive live snaps. Before December 16, Rudolph hadn’t appeared in a regular season game in nearly two years.
Maybe the handful of snaps he played at the end of the Colts matchup will help Rudolph be ready to start in Week 16.
Steelers Face Cloudy QB Situation Heading Into Week 16
With the loss to the Colts, the Steelers fell to 11th place in the AFC playoff picture. They must now pass five teams to get back into playoff positioning.
More than likely, that will require the Steelers winning all three of their remaining games. At the very least, they can’t lose to another AFC opponent because of tiebreaker scenarios.
That means the Week 16 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals is an absolute must-win for the Steelers, which makes who Tomlin starts at quarterback very important.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on December 16 that Kenny Pickett “is pushing to play” versus the Bengals. But Rapoport added that it’s “a bit more realistic” for Pickett to return in Week 17.
If Pickett can’t play on December 23, Tomlin will be faced with whether to turn back to Trubisky again or start Rudolph for the first time since Week 10 of 2021.
Rudolph is 5-4-1 in his career as an NFL starter. He averaged 4.8 yards per pass with 1 touchdown and 1 interception in his last start during 2021.
Trubisky is 2-5 as a starter in two seasons with the Steelers. The Steelers are 0-5 when he has appeared in a game during 2023.