Headlined by newly minted, two-time MVP Lamar Jackson of the Ravens, and the Bengals, Joe Burrow, the AFC North boasts some of the best quarterbacks in the entire NFL. Browns signal caller Deshaun Watson could bolster the division’s quarterback prowess if he’s able to get back to being the top 10 QB he was in Houston, as well.
Conversely, Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement in 2022 has left the division’s fourth team, Pittsburgh, lagging behind in the quarterback department. 2023 first-round pick Kenny Pickett hasn’t quite blossomed into the franchise QB the organization hoped to this point, so much so that he remained the team’s backup in the playoffs after returning from injury because longtime backup Mason Rudolph was playing better football.
The situation has left the Steelers ready to face some tough questions this offseason at the position. After being dismissed in the Wild Card Round by Buffalo, head coach Mike Tomlin was quick to tell reporters that Pickett would return to the top of the depth chart in his end of the season press conference. With the caveat that they would be looking to add some competition at the position as well.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, that competition could include a known veteran set to hit the open market.
On the morning of Super Bowl LVIII, Rapoport noted in a piece highlighting an assortment of teams that could fuel another eventful offseason of quarterback movement, that Pittsburgh is likely to have interest in ex-Titans starter Ryan Tannehill.
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As Rapoport mentioned, the link between Tannehill and the Steelers makes sense after the team hired recently fired Falcons head coach Arthur Smith to be their offensive coordinator. Smith’s connection to Tannehill goes back to their time together in Tennessee, where Smith served as OC from 2019-2020. That first year together, Tannehill started as a backup to Marcus Mariotta before taking over under center in Week 6 and starting the rest of the way.
In 10 games after being ousted in Miami, the Texas A&M product threw for 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He went on to win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year for his efforts. Tennessee made it all the way to the AFC Championship game that year with Tannehill captaining the offense.
That second year with Smith calling the offense, Tannehill produced one of the best seasons of his career with 3,819 passing yards and a career-high 33 touchdowns, while tossing only seven interceptions. The Titans saw their season come to an end in the Wild Card Round that year.
Tannehill’s numbers haven’t been the same since Smith departed for Atlanta in 2021, to the point where he was benched this season as the team prioritized the development of younger QBs like rookie Will Levis instead.
At 35, Tannehill certainly brings some added experience for the Steelers QB room, but it’s unclear if he’s an upgrade at the positon. According to Rapoport, the team’s brass seems to think so.