Steelers News

Mike Tomlin Spent Thursday Night Living In His Fears

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has become synonymous with the aphorisms he dispenses on a weekly basis, so prolific have they become that they have long been referred to as ‘Tomlinisms’. One of the most notable, and perhaps infamous, is the notion of not “living in your fears”.

As a consequence, every time Tomlin makes a coaching decision that clearly skews on the side of conservative, that old aphorism of not living in your fears is brought up. Last night’s loss to the Cleveland Browns provided a golden opportunity to put it to the test, and he failed it, in the eyes of many—including my own.

Down 23-14 in the fourth quarter, facing the prospect of a 4th and 6 from his own 10-yard line, Tomlin elected to punt the ball away, knowing that he still had all three of his timeouts, despite being down by two possessions at that point.

Admittedly, that was a tough call, but with the way the defense was playing, the offense couldn’t continue to go three and out, and it wasn’t reasonable to expect that there would be any chance of winning by punting in that situation.

But he did. And while the defense managed to get the stop, burning through two of their timeouts (Tomlin decided to preserve one and allowed the Browns to drain 40 seconds—which is pointless and makes no difference), he ended up settling for a field goal on 4th and 1 from Cleveland’s 17-yard line.

He said after the game when he was asked if he considered going for the touchdown in that situation that he did not. Back in the third quarter, they also faced a 4th-and-5 in Browns territory. On that, he said, he did consider going for it rather than punting. But “we lost yards on the play, so I moved on”, he added; they had drawn a delay of game penalty.

Going back to the decision to kick the field goal rather than go for the touchdown, of course, the Steelers at that point would still have needed two scores either way, but it is easier to get a field goal than a touchdown, so it’s advisable if possible to get the harder one first. Pittsburgh was in range to get into the end zone, but Tomlin decided not to risk it.

They attempted an onside kick afterward, and they had a legitimate shot at recovering it, had George Pickens not been flagged for being offside. The Browns lost their game on Sunday largely as a result of failing to secure an onside kick as well. In this case, the ball ended up rolling out of bounds, even though it remained in play for a while for a potential recovery.

To be fair to Tomlin, his offense gives him a lot to be fearful about right now, and the way they were playing at that time, it was hard to be encouraged that they could pick up a first down. They only converted once on third down all night, so they didn’t even attempt a conversion on fourth down.

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