In addition to having to answer more questions on Tuesday about how he handled injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the second half of his team’s Sunday road loss to the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was once again asked about his decision to not use a remaining timeout or two late in the fourth quarter of that contest.
During his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin was asked if he considered using a timeout on Sunday either after the long pass completion from Raiders quarterback Derek Carr to wide receiver Seth Roberts, or after the ensuing first and goal run by running back Jalen Richard.
“I did, but to be quite honest with you, I chose not to,” Tomlin said. “I was more interested in stopping them. Particularly, I knew if I didn’t utilize a timeout that the run game would be an element of the sequence and I felt comfortable about our ability to stop the run. And so I was more interested in winning the sequence and less interested in the number of timeouts I was holding if we were to lose the sequence. We had our chances. We got them to fourth down, fourth down and six. We utilized the timeout to put ourselves in the very best call and have discussions that we thought were pertinent to winning that circumstance. We liked the people that we had on the field, we liked the call that we had. They executed better than we did and so such as life.”
Tomlin went on then to explain why he likes to have at least one timeout for the team’s offense to have at their disposal should a late come-from-behind scoring drive ultimately be needed.
“I like to hold a timeout so we can utilize the full field if we get in those circumstances,” Tomlin explained. “I was able to hold one. They scored, we got the ball back. When you have that timeout, you’re able to utilize all components of the field. I think that helps you in those dire circumstances. It makes them have to defend the interior part of the field, et cetera. It gave us a chance.”
In case you don’t remember the situation after Carr completed the long pass to Roberts that set the Raiders offense up at the Steelers 7-yard-line, I will recap it for you.
The completed pass to Roberts happened with 1:51 left and Tomlin decided against using the first of his two remaining timeouts. Obviously, the clock continued to run and the next Raiders offensive play on first and goal, a run by Richard, started with 1:16 left. Tomlin again chose not to use a timeout after Richard was tackled and the Raiders next play, an incompleted pass by Carr, began with :34 remaining on the clock. That incompletion obviously stopped the clock with :30 left. Carr then threw incomplete to the end zone and that play used another 5 seconds. After that incompletion is when Tomlin used his first of two remaining timeouts to discuss what the defensive plan would be on fourth down. The Raiders obviously scored on fourth down and then proceeded to kickoff to the Steelers with :21 remaining in the game.
The Steelers offense ultimately didn’t need to use that final timeout thanks to their first down hook-and-ladder play being very successful. Unfortunately, however, kicker Chris Boswell slipped while attempting to make a game-tying field goal with :05 remaining.
If you do the math, Tomlin probably should have considered using one timeout after the Richard run. At that point, roughly 1:11 would have been on the clock. However, the Raiders still could have decided to run again on second and goal. If that would have been the play call, Tomlin could have then decided to use his final timeout with about 1:06 left if the Steelers defense provided another stop. The Raiders would have likely passed on third down and subsequently on fourth down as well. In short, the Steelers probably could have received the kickoff with around :55 left with either one or none timeouts remaining.
Had Tomlin burned back-to-back timeouts after the completion to Roberts and after the run by Richard, the Raiders would have faced a second and goal with roughly 1:41 remaining. Had the Raiders decided to run again on second down, however, and the Steelers defense provided another stop, roughly another :44 seconds could have been run off the clock before the third down play was started. In short, the Steelers still probably receive a post-score kickoff with around :55 remaining but with zero timeouts at their disposal.
Such is life, I guess.