During his Monday press conference following the Sunday win over the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin answered several questions related to his time and situational management during the game, and again, he strongly defended his decision to go for the touchdown instead of kneeling on the ball during the final offensive possession.
“I would,” said Tomlin, when asked if he would make that same decision again after having several hours to reflect on it. “I just had a concern with kneeling under the circumstances with the weather conditions being what they were. [Mason] Crosby, their kicker, just had a kick blocked earlier on that end of the field and really to be honest with you, it wasn’t anything that we did, I just think that it was a low-hit ball and you’re talking about a guy who’s been kicking great all year.
“I was concerned about the weather conditions from that standpoint. Also, when they utilized their last timeout, I was more comfortable putting the defense on the field under those circumstances after getting a touchdown. So if I had to do it all over again, I’d probable do it the same. Obviously, if I knew they were going to return the kickoff 70 yards, I’d probably have a different approach, but I don’t anticipate them doing that, although they did.”
Tomlin talked about making those kind of decisions as it relates to putting the game in the hands of his defense in the moment and based on what is going on during that particular game as opposed to basing decisions on other moments in other games.
“I’ve got a great deal of confidence in all of those guys to deliver, largely speaking, but I need to make game-time decisions based on what I’m seeing in stadium and what I was seeing from my defense in stadium to that point, obviously, was more than acceptable,” said Tomlin. “They rose up to the challenge and gave us the ball back, and put us in position to go ahead. So I didn’t have any problem with them taking the field and having to win the game with no time outs for Green Bay.”
Tomlin went on to say that there’s a lot less room for error on field goal tries than there is snapping the ball out of the shotgun, when asked why quarterback Ben Roethlisberger received the snap that way on the touchdown run by running back Le’Veon Bell.
Still, the Steelers were probably lucky that Bell didn’t score from five yards out on the first down run from the five yard-line as the Packers still would have had one timeout left had that happened.
I understand Tomlin’s reasoning. I might not like it, but at least scoring touchdown meant that the Packers had to score one as well and they almost did. I would have felt a little more comfortable had the kicker Shaun Suisham been instructed to squib kick the ensuing kickoff based solely on how poorly the Steelers kick coverage has been of a late. Tomlin did consider that option as well.
“In those moments, you got to be prepared to kick and cover,” said Tomlin. “I wanted to give those guys an opportunity to do that. Obviously, we didn’t get the job done.”