The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to 7-6 with a troubling loss to Bailey Zappe and the New England Patriots on Thursday night. It's worth noting the particulars of Pittsburgh's circumstances — Mitch Trubisky starting on a short week — but the Steelers' postseason hopes are beginning to fade. Even without Matt Canada, the offense isn't good enough, and the defense ain't all that either.
At long last, the unsustainable nature of Pittsburgh's early-season success has been laid bare. It's impossible to keep winning games when the offense has only out-gained an opponent once all season, the week after Canada was fired. The Steelers' defense, vaunted as it may be, ranks 21st in yards allowed per game (344.8). The offense sits 26th in yards gained (292.5).
Mike Tomlin is a widely respected head coach and he deserves to be considered one of the best active football minds. Since he took over the Steelers job in 2007, Pittsburgh has zero losing seasons. A couple 8-8 finishes, sure, but never below .500, and never far removed from the postseason bubble. He also has that elusive Super Bowl win on his résumé from 2008.
That said, Tomlin has earned his share of criticism for the Steelers' lackluster performance in 2023. He let Canada have dominion over the offense for far too long, and it's clear the Steelers' high floor does not come with an equally lofty ceiling. No coach is winning the 'chip with Kenny Pickett, but Tomlin's Steelers continue to fall flat. It's unfair to call their 7-6 record luck, but it's clear Pittsburgh is not on the same level as other Wild Card contenders in the AFC.
If the Steelers decide for a change at head coach after 17 years, several teams would love to bring Tomlin on board. Here are a few realistic trades for the Steelers to cash out.
3. Mike Tomlin can restore the Bears to their former glory
The Chicago Bears are 4-8 and Matt Eberflus is halfway out the door already. There was tangible reporting about attempts to lure Jim Harbaugh from Michigan, and there's no reason to believe the Eberflus regime can deliver the desired results after two losing seasons.
Eberflus was brought in to restore the Bears' defense to its accustomed level of greatness. Chicago is currently allowing 318.5 yards per game, which ranks 11th in the NFL. Not bad at all, but not good enough to paper over the team's serious offensive shortcomings. Perhaps more blame should be directed at O.C. Luke Getsy — he is, after all, the primary voice in Justin Fields' ear — but Eberflus is the natural lightning rod for criticism. Such is life as NFL head coach. The Bears' offense ranks 20th in yards per game (323.3).
If the Bears want to parlay two high first-round picks in the 2024 NFL Draft into a swift return to contention next season, that will probably coincide with a coaching change. NFL insider Benjamin Albright seems to think Eberflus is all but finished, despite Chicago's 12-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings last Monday.
Tomlin has literally never been below .500 for an entire season. The 2023 Steelers are a strong candidate to break that streak, but Tomlin's history of consistent excellence can't be overstated. He generally gets the most out of his defense and he would be gifted with a QB upgrade in Chicago, be it Fields, Caleb Williams, or Drake Maye. The Bears can point to Tomlin's long, fruitful relationship with Ben Roethlisberger as a reason for confidence.