Week 16 could mark final Bengals vs. Mike Tomlin match-up

"Mike Tomlin is still under contract for one more season, but with as bad as the results have been, a mutual parting could be the best thing for both parties."

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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The Cincinnati Bengals have gone head-to-head against Mike Tomlin 36 times since he took over as the Pittsburgh Steelers' head coach in 2007. During that time, he's 25-11 against them with the most recent win coming in Week 12 when the Steelers won 16-10 at Paycor Stadium.

A common stat you'll hear whenever Tomlin's coaching legacy is mentioned is that he's yet to have a losing season. Say what you will about how shaky the Steelers have been in recent years but that's impressive in a league as tough as the NFL.

This year, however, it feels as though Tomlin and the Steelers might not be on the same page moving forward. The offense has been abysmal over the past few seasons and it might be time for a change of scenery for Tomlin.

To get more insight on Tomlin's future and to talk about the upcoming Bengals/Steelers match-up, I reached out to Tommy Jaggi of Still Curtain, FanSided's Pittsburgh Steelers site. Check out my entire conversation with Tommy below.

Bengals vs. Steelers Week 16

Q: The Bengals and Steelers just met a few weeks ago and Pittsburgh won that game. Since then, the Steelers have lost 3 straight. What's been the biggest issue (or what have been the biggest issues) during the three-game losing streak?

Tommy: It's hard to pinpoint just one area that has been an issue for the Steelers. They are getting bullied on both sides of the football, and the coaching hasn't been on par with the rest of the league. However, the quarterback play probably deserves the biggest slice of the blame. Mitch Trubisky hasn't done a good job moving the chains or taking care of the football, and the Steelers are 0-3 since he stepped on the field for the injured Kenny Pickett in Week 13.

Q: What is the Steelers' plan at quarterback this offseason? Is Kenny Pickett the guy moving forward or is it time to move on?

Tommy: The fanbase is split when it comes to what the team should do with Kenny Pickett, but this is an organization that sticks to its guns. Mike Tomlin and former GM Kevin Colbert drafted Pickett in the first round in 2022, and the team isn't likely to give up on him. However, it's worth noting that the Steelers have new heads in the front office with GM Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl. They may not have as strong of a commitment to Pickett. If he were to be replaced in 2024, the Steelers would likely trade for a veteran in the offseason. 

Q: Do you think Mike Tomlin will be the Steelers head coach in 2024?

Tommy: This is a great question, and I have gone back and forth. Mike Tomlin is still under contract for one more season, but with as bad as the results have been, a mutual parting could be the best thing for both parties. Trading head coaches don't happen very often, but we saw the Saints do with Sean Payton recently. Tomlin is a candidate to be traded if the Rooney's are looking for new life and decide they want to go in another direction. My guess is that he returns to play out the final year of his deal, but his departure wouldn't shock me.

Q: What has been the biggest strength for the Steelers this year? What is their biggest weakness?

Tommy: The Steelers don't have many strengths to boast this season, but their biggest has to be their pass rush duo of T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. This is one of the better pairings in the league and they have been largely responsible for helping their team earn a few victories in games they had no business winning.

On the flip side of things, Pittsburgh has some major issues at linebacker and in the secondary. They lost two starting linebackers for the year -- Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander -- and their secondary has been decimated with injuries. They could be without four of their top five safeties this week. 

Q: In one sentence, predict how this game will go.

Tommy: I see a low-scoring affair with the better backup quarterback (Jake Browning) outplaying the Steelers' third-string QB, Mason Rudolph.

Q: The Steelers will win if…

Tommy: Pittsburgh can win the turnover battle. This has been the determining factor with this team all year. If they can take care of the football and create a takeaway or two, they will give themselves a solid shot at a victory.

Q: Give us a score prediction.

Tommy: Even in their final home game of the 2023 season, I think Pittsburgh's struggles continue. In a desperation move, they have turned to their third-string quarterback, and they are missing key players on defense -- including Minkah Fitzpatrick. I have the Bengals topping the Steelers 20-16.

Thanks again to Tommy to taking the time to chat with me! Be sure to check out his work over on Still Curtain!

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