Art Rooney II backs up belief that Steelers don’t have a ‘culture problem’
After telling reporters it was “nonsense” that the Pittsburgh Steelers are an organization in disarray, team president Art Rooney II doubled down on his beliefs Friday.
Rooney made the morning talk-show rounds, appearing on 102.5 FM and 93.7 FM to discuss the state of the Steelers three weeks after they concluded a 9-6-1 and missed the playoffs for the first time in five season.
On the airwaves, Rooney reiterated what he earlier had told select media outlets, including the Tribune-Review, when he disagreed with assertions that the organization resembled a “circus” with its list of off-the-field issues, the latest one involving star wide receiver Antonio Brown.
“I certainly don’t think we have a culture problem,” Rooney told 93.7 FM. “We won 13 games (in 2017), so if you have a culture problem, if you have a discipline problem on your team, those kind of teams don’t win 13 games in the National Football League. Those are the facts we have to deal with.”
Rooney later added: “The bottom line is when you point to last year and everybody talks about the drama, that was a team that won 13 games. The first test for me is the performance on the field. Are we winning games? Do we have a winning culture? I think the record speaks for itself.”
Coach Mike Tomlin never has presided over a team with a losing season in his 12 years with the Steelers. In 2018, however, the Steelers won four fewer games than the previous year, and took a loss at Oakland, which had two wins at the time. They lost four of their final six after a 7-2-1 start.
“Our fans judge us primarily on wins and losses,” Rooney said. “This team has won pretty consistently under Mike’s tenure here. When you look at the season, we’re disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs, obviously, but we finished a half-game out of winning our division and were in it down to the last plays of the season.”
Critics point to Tomlin’s 3-5 postseason record since the Steelers appeared in the Super Bowl following the 2010 season.
“We want to do better than that,” Rooney told 93.7 FM. “To be successful in the postseason, you’ve got to start with winning in the regular season. That certainly counts. Bottom line is we want to be playff team that is successful at the end of the season.”
Speaking with 102.5 FM, Rooney said he believes in Tomlin’s leadership abilities.
“The biggest thing he has to be able to do is command the locker room and keep the attention of the players. That is the key to evaluating a coach, and I think Mike has done that,” Rooney said. “Look, we didn’t make the playoffs this year, and that is our first goal. We have to deal with that and have to figure out how to get better.”
Rooney cited the Steelers’ 17-10 win against the New England Patriots and a close loss at New Orleans as examples of the team responding to Tomlin’s coaching. The Patriots and Saints will be competing in their respective conference championship games this weekend.
“Those were two of the better teams in the league that we went toe-to-toe with,” Rooney told 102.5 FM. “The team was playing well, playing hard, and that tells me we didn’t have a problem with Mike’s communication with the team. They were playing hard down to the end.”
Tomlin has two years remaining on his contract, and the Steelers typically extend their head coach’s contract at this juncture of the deal. As he told reporters earlier in the week, Rooney said any talks with Tomlin will be done after the Steelers address free agency and the draft as they build for the 2019 season.
Tomlin’s most recent contract extension came in August 2016.
“Mike and I have conversations every year about the future and where we are going with his contract,” Rooney said. “Typically, we have those private conversations later in the year.”
Asked on 93.7 FM if he intends to sign Tomlin to an extension, Rooney responded, “It’s my intention to sit down with Mike and talk about the future like we do every year.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at email@example.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .