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Tomlin’s Decision To Let Polamalu Return Missed Field Goal Went Against Late Game Decision


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.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • SG

    I think Tomlin’s done a pretty terrible job this year, but this one is kind of nit picking. 3 passing plays in 18 or 17 seconds with this offense and their inept 2 minute drill? Hardly. They’d get one play off and then screw up in trying to decide if they should try to get in range for a long 3 or play for the hail mary.

  • Busforever

    I’m perfectly fine with those kind of decisions. Season is on the line, you have to give your playmakers oportunities to make plays. And when your team has a bad record, you need to do things differently.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I can see both sides on this one although it might be splitting hairs a bit. On one hand it shows just how desperate this football team is but on the other hand it looked like it had a chance until Ike T got the ball from Troy. I thought it was a pretty good idea at the time

  • BurgherinMD

    I liked Troy’s chances. A place kicker, a holder and four/five linemen as the pursuit I like those odds. I would love to see Prater attempt his 64 yarder at 700 ft. elevation compared to Denver’s.

  • SumnerYoung

    The objective is to put points on the board, so in this case I’d take Big Ben and Antonio Brown from 58 yards out with 3 remaining time outs over Troy on a 105 yard kick return. Maybe 6-7 years ago that’d be different, but it’s not. Antonio and Ben are the Steelers’ playmakers and they are both hot right now. Bad decision by Tomlin.

  • Betz Smiff

    Maybe part of the reason for the bad record is “doing things differently”… this guy is not very clock smart to say the least

  • Xclewsive

    Really that’s a bad decision letting probably the best open field runner outside of AB return a missed FG? The Steelers didn’t seem to have a plan for the missed FG it seemed like. Setting up some type of blocking would of help a lot there isn’t much speed on the field.

  • SumnerYoung

    The Steelers should know that only 1 FG has ever been made from over 50 yards when kicking toward the south end zone. So Tomlin waves Polamalu back there (a 32 yr. old, 225 pound LB/SS hybrid) to field it and return it. If you know the traits of your home field, maybe you should have previously designed a play where AB goes into the endzone to return a short kick. But since they clearly didn’t have a play like that in their arsenal, I would’ve taken Ben and Co. to pick up 25-30 yards minimum to give Suisham a kick before halftime. And furthermore, if that same 32 yr. old, 225 pound LB/SS is the second best open field runner on your team, then the team has a serious lack of NFL caliber athletes. That’s becoming pretty apparent.

  • Jeff

    It’s time for both Haley and Tomlin to go. No excuses. Tomlin is the head coach and all responsibility lies with him. He obviously has no idea how to motivate his team, his record against the worst of the worst has proven that, and that falls directly on him. The defense is lacking, he’s had 7 years to build an offensive line around a great quarterback and has failed miserably. This team was on the verge of being a dynasty when he took over and he has done nothing to continue the Steelers tradition of being an elite franchise. Time to wipe the proverbial arse with the ROONEY RULE.

  • T R

    taken them to two super bowls is nothing? do explain? and no losing record till this year… do tell.

  • Superdriller316

    Don’t you think when it comes to college talent, it falls on the scouting dept? So if you want to lay blame, make sure you point in the right direction.

  • Jeff

    You think he has no say in who they draft? Maybe the scouting department judges the talent in OTA’s too. Heck, maybe we should have someone from Aramark come to the combine this year and get us a punter.

  • NW86

    I can see both sides of that one, but even if you want to go for the return (which admittedly has about as much of a chance as a hail mary), why not but your best return man back there instead of Troy? Don’t know who that would be – maybe Antonio – but there are definitely a few better than Troy.

  • Jeff

    Obviously you have no problem with mediocrity. We need less fans like you. You one of them that didn’t play in high school cause you didn’t have the right last name and believe in not keeping score? 2 Super Bowls yes, 1 for Cowher and 1 for Mike. What a clown.

  • Superdriller316

    So from what your saying, he is the only one who has a say. The owners don’t have a say. The GM doesn’t have a say. Well if that is the case why do we even have a FO? It’s all on Tomlin he is the only one who makes the decisions. You want to blame him for being up against the cap every year too? Maybe you should look up what the job of the GM is. That will give a little more of a clue. Yes, Tomlin has some say, but so does about 5-10 other people. So once again, if your going to point fingers make you point it in the right direction. Not just at the one you hate.

    Since you want him gone. Who do you think should replace him with? Wiz? He sucks too. Last I looked Tomlin was still over .600 winning percent. And until this year has NEVER had a loosing season. Still might pull it out yet. So if you don’t like it I hear the Dirty Birds are looking for fans, or maybe the Cards.

  • Jeff

    No, I said he has a say, you said blame the scouts. Pick a story and stick with it. You must be a Tomlin fan, good for you. Not a lot of steeler nation agrees with you bud.

  • Superdriller316

    And like I said, so does 5-10 other people have a say. You just only want to blame one person. It’s an organization, it’s everyone’s fault. Blame Tomlin for game time decisions. That’s his job. Talent is on a lot of other people. You would know that if you weren’t blinded by your racism. I got that from your previous post. You still haven’t said who should replace him. Since your such an expert, why don’t you do it.

  • JohnnyV1

    This is a little thin.

  • greeny

    Smart prudent decisions usually will result in the desired outcome especially when our game plan promotes close games. Obviously the last few seasons, Tomlin has not made smart prudent decisions resulting in losses.

  • T R

    it took cowher 15 years to get 1 and only 1.. No i am not happy with mediocrity.. but it happens… you can’t be on top every season.. especially not in this day and age when you have to fight agains injuries, salary caps, changing in schemes… Come on man.. name one team or coach that had stayed on top every season… Steelers are successful because they give things time… We are not the cowboys or redskins or Houston or i can keep going on and on.. That changes coaches and philosophy every season.. We actually take time and think about the consequences of our decisions before the make rash decisions.. Thats why we are only down for a second. then we back on top… We don’t need fair weather fans like you..

  • DrakePirate

    you guys are pretty clueless … these decisions are pretty much like playing poker … the decision was easily in favor of taking the 20 or so seconds with timeouts at the 42 yd line … like 80/20 in favor … why the fk would u have him run it out …. Stuuuuupid … Tomlin is absolutely horrendous when it comes to time mngmnt and numbers game !!!

  • rizzo29

    Don’t you know you don’t say anything negative about Tomlin on here, if you do your not a real Steelers fan.He’s the greatest coach that coached this team,past-present-future

  • walter mason

    The team improved with one coach and is degrading with the other.

  • T R

    no it degraded with injury and salary cap that the one coach ran up the tab…

  • walter mason

    I think poor drafting was the main problem. This past draft was better and I just hope we can continue to improve from here on out and eventually stop mortaging our future with all the restructuring of contracts

  • T R

    This is tru we have had a bunch of duds in drafting… but the scouts and gms does mostly that.. I mean yea the coach has his say so too but he is only a small part of the drafting decision… But we all know, drafting is like a lottery ticket… we have just had history of drafting well. I hope we can do better next year…

  • Jeff

    Apparently, I given him 7 loyal years of defending him to all the na Sayers and I’m done. He has turned a once proud franchise in to a team that looks disorganized and at times unable to get out of their own way and that falls on him, that comes with the term “coach”. That game on Sunday was embarrassing to watch. The defense can’t tackle, receivers drop the ball, lineman miss blocks. It’s embarrassing. Now these other jerk offs will say their is others involved in all that and they will be right, but none of them are called head coach but Tomlin. If he is not responsible for making sure the other coaches are doing their job, or even worse, he’s not making sure, then let they axe fall. Pittsburgh is a proud franchise, coaches will come from every where for that job. The best coach’s too. Tomlin is a bum. Everybody knows it, some don’t want to admit it. But he’ll be back next year and we will suffer through more of the same, and I will still cheer them on, but it’s one more season lost.

  • Apexsimba

    Or you know we could have let AB return it.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    So Tomlin is a terrible time manager, what else is new?

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    What about his misjudgement of the guys on the team already? Guys like Heyward/Hood, Dwyer/Redman, Hoyer/Leftwich last season? He has messed up judging the guys that he sees day in and day out as well.

  • Aric Brown

    that is antonio browns default position on madden… just sayin

  • Jerronimo

    Hasn’t anyone noticed that Ben’s clutch-ness has diminished? He used to be money with the ball for a game winning drive. It has been downhill since the loss to GB in the SB. When I heard that Ben and the O had the ball with 3 minutes left I thought that they would at least tie. Won’t be thinking that anymore. He has lost IT.

  • Bob Graff

    Should Troy be returning kicks at this stage in his career??? The whole organization has dropped the ball. It’s time to cut the fat not later but now. By fat i mean idiot coaches, poor scouting, aging overpaid vets and early round draft choices who don’t belong in the NFL.Any team can raise to the top you just have to be very honest about what you have and what you are doing. In my opinion at the very least most of the assistant coaches need to go. And Tomlin might want to watch some old films of Dean Smith work a game clock, i know it’s b. ball but there was never anyone any better at working a clock.

  • rizzo29

    Your right on, when they win they say how great of a coach he is but when they lose it,s not his fault always someone else,s.My question to you is he’ll never be fired but if he is gone then who do have on your list of replacements.

  • Jeff

    You know that is a good question. I have to believe they would look at an offensive coordinator in the NFL, but I would consider several from the NCAA, especially from the SEC. Look at what that fella from Oregon has done with Philly. I think we all agree that Andy Reid is a good coach. Look at what he has done in KC. Sometimes u need change and sometimes the Coach doesn’t fit the system, as is the case with Tomlin. Noll and Cowher were no nonsense. Half the time you see Tomlin he’s talking with the players and it looks like there planning where their next keg party is going to be. Next time he’s taking away their video games. Both scenarios are childish. He’s not a motivator, he talks a good game to the media and front office, but I believe the players see right through him, especially the one’s who played for Cowher.

  • rizzo29

    Just as long as it’s not one of these recycled coaches like Norv Turner,Gruden etc.I’m guessing nobody would notice if Tomlin stayed home these next 3 games and they use a cardboard cut out of him on the sidelines and just move it around every now and then

  • Jeff

    Amen. Almost like Bell running for 40 yds in 1st quarter then not playing until the 2nd half. Now listen to them all say that was Haley’s fault, which it is, but as the head coach you talk to your offensive coordinator and tell him, get him the ball. He’s just the cover of the magazine, an empty steelers jacket. What a shame. Guys like Kiesel, Clark and Troy having to finish their careers with a lame duck coach.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    They say that tomlin is not in job security yet.

  • JC Chuta

    I didn’t think much of it (Polamalu returning the missed field goal) until reading the “facts”. I have to agree with this report, should have let Ben work his magic. Returning the kick was a guaranteed bust. At least Ben would have given us a shot!

  • Superdriller316

    When it comes to Hood and Heyward, I guess Coach Mitchell thought Heyward hadn’t done enough to beat Ziggy out. Maybe the light bulb just came on for Cam. In an interview with David Todd, Mitchell said that Cam came into camp this year in extremely great shape. His play so far this year, Cam should be a starter.

    Dwyer/Redman, I wouldn’t have kept either one of them. Red doesn’t have the ability and can’t hold on to the ball and blames everyone else for his short comings. Dwyer showed up for camp out of shape, couldn’t get to meetings on time. The best thing to happen for Dwyer was to get cut. That lit the fire. Look at him now, he’s in good shape and being productive when he’s in.

    Hoyer/Leftwitch, I don’t know there. Maybe it had to do with money. I liked Hoyer more, but his contract wasn’t guaranteed and Leftwitch’s was. Maybe Hoyer wasn’t picking up the playbook fast enough.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    I understand there are rationalizations for each, though from the outside (obviously, none of us are Tomlin/Mitchell) Heyward to me should have started ahead of Hood from game 1 this season. Those are just comes cases, and all are debatable, as they are a matter of opinion.

  • Superdriller316

    I wasn’t a fan of Ziggy from the get go. For as strong as he is, he should be unstoppable, but he’s not. I’m all for Cam being the starter, even last year.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    Agreed. Last year it was closer, but I thought he should have been in there more. This year, to me, Heyward jumped out in front in the preseason and never looked back.

  • Superdriller316

    Cam is looking more like Aaron Smith everyday.

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