While many are debating the decision by Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to go for it on 4th and 10 from his own 10-yard-line with 2:33 left in the Sunday game against the Miami Dolphins, the decision made by him to allow safety Troy Polamalu to run back a missed 52-yard field goal by kicker Caleb Sturgis with 21 seconds left in the first half deserves some discussion as well.
When Polamalu fielded the short kick in the Steelers end zone, there was 18 seconds left in the half. Had he just let it fall short, the Steelers offense would have taken possession of the football at their own 42-yard-line with three timeouts left and down three points.
That would have been enough time to run at least two or three passing plays in order to move the ball 28 yards, which in turn would have given kicker Shaun Suisham a chance to kick a 47 yard field goal to tie the game and close out the half.
After the game, Tomlin was asked if he told Polamalu to run back the kick should it wind up short.
“Absolutely. I waived him back there,” said the head coach.
Perhaps Tomlin watched the end of the Auburn-Alabama game a few weeks ago and that influenced his decision. However, considering the snowy conditions, the probability, the field position and the timeout situation, it wasn’t the best decision.
Of course, decisions like that one always look like wrong ones when they don’t succeed, but when you consider the fact that Tomlin wanted the ball in the hands of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger late in the game with the outcome and the season hanging in the balance, you would have thought that same line of decision making would have taken place in the closing seconds of the first half.