How would you have liked to have been a fly on the Pittsburgh Steelers sideline Sunday during the final 30 seconds of their game against the New England Patriots? So much happened after Steelers tight end Jesse James seemingly scored a go-ahead touchdown with 28 seconds remaining in the contest and on Tuesday head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about several things that transpired during the final failed possession.
First, Tomlin was asked to talk about what transpired communication-wise on the final play that resulted in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing an interception and his response to that question actually centered around what transpired after James seemingly had scored a touchdown.
“It really was a lot of things that transpired during the course of that time period. It starts kind of with the review and what potentially could happen coming out of the review,” Tomlin started to explain. “We had a couple of scenarios and there was obviously touchdown, drive over scenario. There was a scenario that was ruled incomplete, but there was also another scenario that was probably more-critical and more-time-specific that was being discussed. It was being discussed by us, it was presented to us by the officials during the review process that if he [James] gets ruled completed catch, down in bounds. That was probably the most significant element of the discussion as we approached the last play.”
So, what was so critical about the scenario that included James possibly having been ruled as catching the football yet down at the Patriots one yard-line?
“While they were in review that was being discussed because if his knee was down in the field of play there would be a ten-second runoff,” Tomlin said. “They would spot the ball, wind the clock and we’d be faced with a running clock in that circumstance. So, that probably was the most-significant element of the discussion when they were in review and that was presented to us by one of the officials that they may come out with a completed ball in the field of play and he gave us an alert that it may include a ten-second runoff and a running clock.
“So obviously, ten-second runoff, running clock, that’s the scenario that maintained most of our attenuation in terms of what could happen as they came out of review. What did happen when they came out of review obviously is probably the least of the scenarios from my expectation, which was that it would be ruled an incomplete pass.”
So, Tomlin and the coaching staff were apparently concerned more about James being ruled down at the Patriots one-yard-line than they were his catch ultimately being overturned? Ok, but even if they were worried about that scenario coming to fruition, didn’t they still have enough time to at least get two plays called regardless of what the outcome of the review was?
Tomlin was asked if they had two plays called coming out of the review and his answer to that question wasn’t great.
“There were multiple plays being called for the reasons that I explained,” Tomlin said. “There were multiple potential circumstances depending on what transpired when they came out of review.”
Tomlin was then asked if there should have been two plays called in the huddle after it was ruled that the pass to James was incomplete.
“Again, like I said, in hindsight, knowing what they’re coming out of the booth review with, certainly,” Tomlin said. “But we were given multiple scenarios that they could come out of that booth with and that one scenario of spotted ball in the field of play, winding the clock with a running clock kind of took precedence in our discussions in terms of them leading up to them coming out of the review.”
In case you’re curious, from the time that James seemingly scored until referee Tony Corrente announced that his catch had been overturned, 3:27 of real time had elapsed. Additionally, the Steelers next offensive snap took place 4:17 after James seemingly scored, or nearly one full minute after Corrente had made his announcement. Isn’t that enough time to get two plays called by Roethlisberger?
I know that this was certainly a unique thing that happened Sunday and understand that the offense could have been faced with several different scenarios as a result of the outcome of the booth review, but at worst, the ball would have been placed at the Patriots one-yard line with 18 seconds left and the clock started after the ball was deemed ready to play. At best, outside of James’ catch being ruled a touchdown, we have what ultimately transpired and that’s an incompleted pass. In short, having just one play called coming out of the review instead of two is unacceptable, in my honest opinion.