Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tomlin Defends Late Game Touchdown Strategy

 

 

I am not into that. We had the opportunity to put the ball in the end zone. In weather conditions like that, anything can happen. The snapper could roll the ball back, the ball could roll through the snappers hands, etc. Given the opportunity to score, we’re going to score [not run time off to kick a game-winning field goal]. We felt comfortable putting our defense on the field and winning.

-Mike Tomlin (Steelers.com)

 

I understand that the Pittsburgh Steelers won yesterday, and it makes me smile to see that the team is still in contention for a postseason berth. However, it is really difficult for me to digest what occurred at the end of the game when it came to the clock management by Pittsburgh’s coaching staff and their offense.

Instead of winding the clock down and sending Shaun Suisham on the field to make what could have been a less than 25-yard field goal, Mike Tomlin wanted his team to try for a go-ahead touchdown with close to 1:30 remaining in the game. Make no mistake, I am happy that Le’Veon Bell scored on a one-yard touchdown run on second and goal. Nevertheless, I felt that Tomlin’s decision to go for the touchdown with that amount of time remaining was a ridiculous gamble.

I for one would have had my reservations with the way the defense had been shredded by Matt Flynn for 31 points to that point in the game. Instead of a sieve-like defense, I would have rather rolled the dice on my veteran long snapper in the form of Greg Warren, a veteran holder Mat McBriar and a reliable kicker in the form of Suisham. An attempted field goal itself would have been a glorified extra point for one of the league’ most accurate kickers inside of 45 yards this fall.

Plus, who is to say that Bell doesn’t put the ball on the turf on his way into the end zone? He fumbled earlier in the game, and the conditions were not exactly prime for running backs at that particular juncture. Roethlisberger could have mishandled the snap from the shotgun formation, or even botched the exchange with Bell.

As far as giving the ball back to the Packers with close to a minute and a half was concerned, did it not occur to Tomlin that Micah Hyde is currently one of the NFL’s best kickoff return men? Moreover, why didn’t special teams coach Danny Smith instruct Suisham to pooch the ball to an up-back with limited ball skills? Heck, Shamarko Thomas deserves credit for his effort on the play and how he saved the game with the timely tackle of Hyde.

Now I completely understand that the Packers did not have any timeouts remaining. Yet 1:25 is an eternity for an NFL offense to move the ball eighty yards for a score or to at least move the ball far enough for a shot into the end zone. Unless Suisham booted it out of the end zone on the kickoff, the Packers would have had ample time and potentially good field position to work with at that juncture.

Thankfully for the Steelers, Tomlin’s decision did not backfire on him or his team because of Green Bay’s piss-poor clock management. Had Matt Flynn knew the 10-second runoff rule, the Packers likely would have had another offensive play or even two to run inside Pittsburgh’s 10-yard line at the end of the game.

While I must give credit to Tomlin for sticking to his guns and standing by his decision, it would have been nice to see him show more faith in his kicker, punter/holder and long snapper to put the game away yesterday.

 

 

Stats & Contract Info. Provided By: ESPN.comSteelers.com , Spotrac and Pro Football Reference

 

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