It’s apparent Mike Tomlin and Aaron Rodgers share an immense amount of respect for each other. But could they also have plans to join forces?
The Steelers’ head coach and Packers’ quarterback shared a cute smiley moment during Green Bay’s 27-17 romping over Pittsburgh Sunday. Early in the second quarter, Rodgers tried to call a quick play so he could catch the Steelers with too many men on the field. Tomlin noticed the trickery, and immediately signaled for a time out.
The two men glanced at each other afterwards and swapped warm grins — just like when you’re trying to pick someone up from across the bar.
Rodgers commented on their exchange after the game, and said it was nothing more than two greats acknowledging the other’s tactical acumen. “It’s a lot of respect,” Rodgers told reporters. “I haven’t spent a lot of time with him, but I’ve watched him from afar for a long time — a lot of respect for him.”
With Ben Roethlisberger looking cooked, the Steelers will probably be searching for a new quarterback next year. That’s where Rodgers enters the theoretical picture. Following an offseason of strife, the Packers reportedly crafted a list of concessions to goad Rodgers into coming back, with a promise to void the last year of his deal. Most importantly, the Packers seemingly promised to trade Rodgers after this season. They’ve agreed to “review Rodgers' situation” before the offseason, according to reports.
The Steelers will do the same with Roethlisberger, though that probably won’t be necessary. He’s only signed through 2021, and if he retires, the worst penalty would be his $10.4 million in dead cap money.
Pittsburgh will have at least $73 million in cap room for 2022 — second-most in the NFL.
Rodgers showed off his greatness Sunday, completing 20-of-36 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers are now 3-1.
Even though Rodgers is 37 years old, it’s clear the MVP has more football left in him. He’s coming off arguably his best season ever and picked up his play after an underwhelming Week 1 performance. Another playoff run seems to be in the cards.
With an array of young skill players — Najee Harris, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson — the Steelers would be able to surround Rodgers with dynamic talent. If Tom Brady can win a Super Bowl at 43, it’s safe to surmise that Rodgers could keep producing an at elite level as he enters his fifth decade. He’s adopted the TB12 Method, for what it’s worth.
In isolation, Tomlin and Rodgers’ acknowledgment is probably more innocuous than anything else. But if Rodgers is available this offseason, the Steelers would make sense as suitors for a bevy of reasons, including their spot in the AFC.
Maybe the ground work was laid Sunday. It all started with a smile.