The two biggest decisions in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss
By Jay Douglas
Mike Tomlin has been repeatedly criticized for his play calling in last Thursday’s 23-20 overtime loss to Baltimore. Like I wrote in my last article, it is hard to pinpoint any one play or play call for the Steelers’ loss because there were several guilty parties involved. When you let a 20-7 lead evaporate, everyone did their part (or didn’t depending on how you want to look at it). However, two play calls seem to stand out the most in everyone’s minds.
1. Going for it on 4th down in overtime (the first time)
After Josh Scobee missed two field goals in the last three minutes of regulation, each of which would have essentially given Pittsburgh the win, the Steelers and Ravens went to overtime. The Steelers won the coin toss and elected to receive the kick. Dri Archer returned his first kickoff of the night to the 31 yard line setting Pittsburgh up with good field position.
They got one first down on a 22 yard run by Le’Veon Bell, then Bell ran twice for 8 yards which set up 3rd and two. Even though Bell had just gotten 30 yards on 3 carries, the Steelers did not give him the ball on 3rd or 4th down. Vick threw an incomplete pass over the middle to Antonio Brown so it was 4th and 2 on the Baltimore 39 yard line. The Steelers had three options: 1) attempt a 57 yard field goal, 2) punt the ball and try and pin the Ravens deep in their own territory risking a touch back, or 3) go for the first down. Well, they went for the first down; they called the play for Vick to run to the left, and he proceeded to not gain any yards and the Steelers turned it over.
2. Going for it on 4th down in overtime (the second time)
The Steelers’ defense, which played admirably all night, held Baltimore to only three yards on the ensuing drive and the Ravens were forced to punt. Antonio Brown returned the kick 29 yards and stepped out of bounds at the Steelers 41. It could have been more, but his foot barely touched the sideline as he was cutting up field. A few plays later, the Steelers had a 4th and one at the Ravens’ 33 yard line.
It was decision time again.
Tomlin sent out his offense out to go for it, passing up a 50 yard kick for the win. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth agreed that Tomlin and the Steelers should go for the kick. What confused me was how they did not even take into account that Josh Scobee had just missed 2 field goals, from a closer distance, at the end of regulation. On 4th and one the Steelers called a passing play to Antonio Brown. Vick threw across his body and over shot Brown, turning it over on downs. The Steelers never got the ball back and Justin Tucker would go on to kick the winning 52 yard field goal.
Again, it is easy to second guess play calls when watching from your couch, but that is my job. I actually agreed with both of Tomlin’s decisions to go for it. I actually think they were no brainers when you take into account Scobee’s struggles this season, not just this game.
If Scobee had missed for a third time, there might have been a riot in the stands. The question marks with the kicking game left Tomlin with no choice but to go for it as his confidence in Scobee was shattered. The execution and play calling were the parts that I didn’t agree with. When you only need one yard, why throw to Vick’s right when he is left handed? Why not give Le’Veon Bell, the best player for you that night, the ball in the short yardage situations? Mike Tomlin took the blame for the loss but I do not expect him to be less aggressive with his play calling. The same critics that loved his aggressiveness going for the 2-point conversions the first two weeks are the same ones questioning him now. Damned if you do damned if you don’t.
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