Report: Mike Tomlin plans to return to Steelers next season

Mike Tomlin plans to return to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers next season, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday.

Per the report, Tomlin told Steelers players Tuesday that suggestions that he is leaving are unfounded and that he plans to address the media later this week about his job status.

Speculation has swirled throughout the season that 2023 might be Tomlin's last in Pittsburgh. A 7-7 mark through Week 15 put the Steelers outside the playoff race, prompting rumors that the team might look to part with Tomlin at the end of the regular season. When the Steelers won their last three games and made the playoffs, rumors shifted to Tomlin being the one considering ending the long-term relationship.

Speculation reached a peak Monday, after the Steelers lost to the Buffalo Bills in the wild-card round. In his postgame news conference, Tomlin walked off the podium when a reporter broached the subject of his contract, which is set to expire after the 2024 season.

Tomlin turned and walked away as soon as ESPN's Brooke Pryor prefaced a question with "Mike, you have a year left on your contract ...”

Will Tomlin sign an extension?

Tomlin has coached the Steelers for 17 seasons and is the NFL's longest-tenured head coach. He has never approached a season with a single year remaining on his contract.

Multiple reports have suggested that the Steelers want Tomlin to return. Tuesday's report from Garafolo didn't address his contract situation or if Tomlin and the Steelers would work on an extension.

Steelers players back Tomlin

While Tomlin declined to address his future publicly in the immediate aftermath of a playoff loss, multiple players, including All-Pros and team captains T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward, have thrown their support behind Tomlin since Monday's game.

"I want to play for Mike T," Watt told reporters Tuesday. "It was huge in my contract talks. I don't want to play for anybody other than Mike T. You guys understand and see in the way that I talk about him how much I respect and appreciate him as a coach, as a man, as a leader."

Watt's comments echoed Heyward, who spoke about Tomlin after Monday's game.

"Every player wouldn’t be anything without Mike T," Heyward told reporters. "This group would not function to even get to a playoff berth without Mike T. He keeps us accountable from top to bottom, and I don't want to play for any other coach."

Mike Tomlin reportedly plans to return for an 18th season with the Steelers. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
Mike Tomlin reportedly plans to return for an 18th season with the Steelers. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Who will quarterback the Steelers next season?

Next season will come with significant challenges in Pittsburgh. The Steelers' quarterback situation is in flux after Mason Rudolph replaced Kenny Pickett for the end of the season and the playoffs. Pickett was initially sidelined by injury, but he remained on the bench after he recovered from "tight rope" surgery on his injured ankle. Rudolph led the Steelers in each game of their three-game winning streak that clinched the AFC's final playoff berth.

In two seasons, Pickett has failed to live up to the expectations that made him a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. In 25 career appearances, he has completed 62.6% of his passes for 6.3 yards per attempt and 179 yards per game while tallying 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Rudolph's status moving forward, meanwhile, is unclear. He played in 2023 on a one-year contract and told reporters Monday, "I have no idea what's going to happen" in the offseason.

Pittsburgh's success, obviously, will depend greatly on how the quarterback situation plays out. Tomlin appears ready to accept that challenge for another season.