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Art Rooney says Steelers' strong second half is something to 'be encouraged about'

CBS News Live
CBS News Pittsburgh Live

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Despite missing the playoffs for the first time since 2019, Steelers president Art Rooney II said he was encouraged by the team's second half of the season.

The Steelers, led by rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, went 7-2 down the stretch, including wins over Baltimore and Cleveland, to finish the season 9-8.

"The fact that we were still alive going into the last weekend of the season, that's a place you want to be," he said. "And unfortunately, we did dig a hole. But I think the team hung in there, they kept fighting, even though we dug too deep of a hole to really get all the way out of it. We kept fighting down through the end and saw some improvement as the season went on. So there are things to be encouraged about."

That strong second half was one of the reasons the team brought back Matt Canada as offensive coordinator. 

"We saw the improvement in the offense, the improvement in Kenny," Rooney said. "And I think (coach Mike Tomlin) feels there's enough to build on there. Starting over you, you never know what you're gonna get if you start over again. And so we think there's enough to build on there."

Rooney said he was impressed by what he saw in Pickett's first season. The Pitt graduate started 12 games, tallying 2,404 yards passing and seven passing scores. Rooney highlighted Pickett's "mental toughness" near the end of the season when he led multiple game-winning drives.

"I like what we saw there in terms of key situations that he held us and finished the job," Rooney said. "And I think that was something that you never know, you don't know whether a quarterback can do that or not until he does it. So it was good to see that."

Rooney did say he expects backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky to be with the team next season.

"I expect Mitch will be on the roster next year and be an effective backup if we need him," he said. "I think he showed that he can be that. We can win with him."

The Steelers' president was also asked if he had one mulligan for the season, what would he use it on. 

"There are games you look at and think we could have won a couple of those games early in the year," Rooney said. "The Jets game is probably one in particular, that having the lead late in the game and giving it up, that hurts."

Watch the full interview with Rooney above. 

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