2017 South Side Questions: Was Tomlin Wrong To Leave Big Ben In Late?

The regular season is now over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the playoffs as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to playoff success, in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Was Mike Tomlin wrong to leave Ben Roethlisberger in the game with a 24-point lead?

The Steelers haven’t had that much success in recent years in terms of dominating their playoff opponents. The last time they recorded a margin of victory of two possessions was back during the 2008 season, when they beat the Ravens 23-14 in the AFC Conference Championship.

Yesterday, they beat the Dolphins by a score of 30-12, an 18-point, three-possession victory. The last time the Steeler managed to do that? The 1996 Wildcard victory over the Colts, a 42-14 stomping. But it was also the 10th playoff victory—of 35 playoff victories—that they won by at least 18 points.

The point here, however, is the fact that the Steelers don’t have all that much experience winning by a lot of points in the postseason. This was the first 18-point victory in the Roethlisberger era, though the Steelers did win two games during the 2005 run by at least two touchdowns.

The Steelers scored their fourth touchdown of the game with about two minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. At that time, they held a 30-6 lead, winning by 24 points. But it didn’t exactly appear that Mike Tomlin gave any real consideration to pulling any of his starters by then.

The Dolphins pitched a four-and-out on the ensuing drive and the Steelers offense had the ball back by the last play of the third quarter, their starters still in. Le’Veon Bell was still in the game even later with 11 minutes to play.

When the Steelers got the ball back with about six minutes to play, after the Dolphins scored, Bell went to the sideline, but he was the only starter to sit. Antonio Brown even fielded the onside kick.

He was on the field for their final offensive play of the game before the kneel down, when Roethlisberger took a hit throwing an interception. The quarterback injured his ankle and was in a walking boot after the game. Tomlin sat Bell by that point, but not Brown, and not Roethlisberger. It is easy to say in hindsight that that was a mistake, but was it wrong? Or was it just bad luck?

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