Art Rooney’s State of the Steelers Gets Right to the Point

The team president is encouraged but not satisfied after scrambling back from 3-7 to 9-8 and just missing the playoffs.
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The State of the Steelers team president Art Rooney II presented on Thursday afternoon in the relatively informal setting he favors for such occasions has traditionally included an assessment of a just-completed season that falls short of a demand but lands much closer to a directive than a suggestion.

This year was no different.

“Score more points.”

It was neither flippant nor dismissive.

The Steelers emerged from 2022 as a team on the rise, but also as one that failed to make the playoffs.

Their arrow is pointing up but they still have a long way to go.

“Score more points” is the way to get there, and it really isn’t a whole lot more complicated than that.

In years past, Rooney has offered up a desire to see the team run the ball better, or to see Ben Roethlisberger tweak the way he played the game, specifically how long he would hold onto the ball before throwing it.

This year’s point of emphasis heading into next season was delivered as it usually has been, with Rooney seated at a makeshift conference table rather than standing at a podium and with no TV cameras present.

It didn’t need to be any more complicated than that.

“We didn’t score enough points, was the bottom line, and in particular not great red zone efficiency,” Rooney continued. “Those are a couple of things I would identify we clearly have to get better at.”

The expectation, their expectation is they will.

Rooney acknowledged the circumstances that conspired to prevent the Steelers from being better in those areas than they were on the way to 9-8.

They were breaking in a new quarterback, and ultimately wound up turning to a rookie.

There was youth at the skill positions around Mitch Trubisky initially and Kenny Pickett eventually.

And the offensive line was in transition, again, and required time to marinate.

They played a conservative style, painfully so at times. One that seemingly valued protecting the ball more than it did scoring points because that was the way they thought they needed to play given what they had available.

What clearly mattered most to Rooney was the Steelers persevered and got better, which explains the retention of offensive coordinator Matt Canada and an apparent lack of anything resembling heat under the seat of head coach Mike Tomlin.

“You gotta decide what your formula for success is going to be,” Rooney continued. “I think Mike said it, ‘If you have red paint, you paint the barn red.’ We had a lot of young players on offense so that factors into what you do and how you do it. One of the things we did over the course of the season, when you look at the first half vs. the second half, is we didn’t turn the ball over as much. That gives you a chance to win.

“Opening the thing up, if you have opportunities to do that you do it.”

The idea was never to compare themselves to what offensive juggernauts such as the Bengals, Bills and Chiefs were doing.

Nor have evaluations emerging from this season been made under the assumption the offense was anything resembling a finished product.

Next year’s barn, if all goes according to plan, might not be painted with all the colors of the rainbow, but it won’t be just red.

“Let’s put it this way, I think we have a lot of good young players on offense who hopefully will take another step next year,” Rooney concluded.

All they have to do to take it is score more points.

Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section