During his weekly pre-game press conference, Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin told reporters that he spoke to wide receiver Antonio Brown about his decision to step out of bounds on the final play of the game, which was a 44-yard reception to the Cowboys’ 30-yard line with no time remaining on the clock.
He said during his conversation with reporters that “I’d like to see us stay inbounds and fight and claw for every scratch, every yard, every blade of grass, any opportunity we can have to win the game”. evidently, he took umbrage with the fact that Brown took the ball out of bounds rather than try to find an alternative solution.
Yesterday, when being told about what Tomlin said, Brown spoke on the topic during his radio show. Not only did he defend his decision at the end of the game, he said, as Gerry Dulac wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that “he didn’t recall Tomlin saying anything to him about running out of bounds on that play”.
While I’m sure that Tomlin said something to Brown, that Brown could suggest that he can’t even recall the conversation indicates that it was not a very elaborate conversation, perhaps even just a brief aside about giving the team an opportunity or something in that vein.
But whether or not Tomlin did address the situation with Brown in any kind of meaningful capacity, the All-Pro wide receiver still does not believe that he did anything that was deserving of criticism on the final play, suggesting that there was nothing else to be done.
“When you lose a game, everyone finds something to nit-pick the reason why we lost” he said, and of course there are plenty of more compelling reasons to explain why the Steelers lost than citing a play with two seconds left from the 36-yard line. “What should I do”, he asked, “fall down inbounds and get tackled inbounds? The game is still over”.
Brown re-set the scene, how the Cowboys had “seven guys in the end zone, there’s nowhere to go, I’m running full speed, I think we had one guy in the area to block and three guys on the other side of the field”.
“In that situation”, he added, “I’m trying to score, but it’s hard when I have no one blocking and seven guys right there. I strongly believe they believe I was trying to do everything to get to the end zone”.
As Alex Kozora noted yesterday in writing about Tomin’s original comments, Brown was the author of an end-of-game desperation play against Miami in 2013 that very nearly actually worked, had he not stepped out of bounds.
But even that was a lateral type of play, whereas this was a straight passing situation, and Brown did not see any realistic opportunity to lateral the ball to anybody in the vicinity. Logically, we can say that the probability of anything coming out of that play in the last couple of seconds of action was extremely low.
Yet there still is something visually and psychologically frustrating to see a game end in a loss with the ball carrier choosing to go out of bounds, even if there was no realistic alternative to changing the ultimate outcome.