While the Pittsburgh Steelers did ultimately beat the Cincinnati Bengals 29-14 Sunday at Heinz Field, their recent string of offensive woes inside the red zone continued on. The Steelers offense managed to convert just one of their six Sunday red zone trips into a touchdown and one of those failed trips came late in the first half. The end of that particular drive included a very curious play call with 12 seconds remaining before halftime that will surely be discussed quite a bit this coming week.
Following a Bengals timeout, the Steelers offense faced a 2nd down and 5 from the Bengals 5-yard-line with 12 seconds remaining in the first half. Pre snap, the Steelers offense had an empty backfield and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger then proceeded to direct running back Le’Veon Bell back to the backfield as a sidecar to his right. After the football was snapped, Roethlisberger handed the football off to Bell and he ran left behind pulling right guard David DeCastro.
Bell was quickly bottled up by the Bengals defense with 7 seconds remaining in the first half, however, head coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t able to get his timeout request heard until there were 3 seconds remaining. At that point there wasn’t enough time to run another play and kicker Chris Boswell was sent in to kick a 24-yard field goal.
The decision to run the football with 12 second remaining instead of passing it was a very dubious call. After the game was over, Roethlisberger was asked about that particular call and the events that led up to it during his talk with the media.
“We had a pass play called and we had a really good look and then I’m not sure what happened,” Roethlisberger started to explain. “The timeout, or something happened, and then we changed the play because we had a timeout. And Todd [Haley] was just telling me that we have a timeout so lets change the play. And I’m a little frustrated with that because I don’t think that’s the time and the place for that. You’ve got 7 seconds, I believe it was 7 or 8, whatever it was, with a timeout. That’s at least two shots at the end zone, but we run the plays that are called. They must have saw something, thought we can get it. I hate to just get 3-points down there, I think that’s what is so frustrating about that particular series.”
When Roethlisberger walked off the field following that failed running play you could tell he wasn’t happy. Tomlin wasn’t happy, either, but that mostly seemed to be because he thought he had a timeout called with 7 seconds remaining in the first half. Roethlisberger and Tomlin also exchanged a few heated words as the team left the field for halftime.
While the Steelers did manage to get 3-points on that drive to end the first half, the offense missed a golden opportunity to score a touchdown thanks to the failed running play and subsequent failure to get a quick timeout called immediately after Bell was tackled.
It sounds like you can put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Haley for that butchered red zone trip and thankfully it didn’t wind up costing the Steelers the game.