Tomlin Defends Leaving Starters In For Entire Game

It certainly shouldn’t be the main takeaway from Sunday’s loss, or even the tenth, but by the end of the game, Steelers’ fans were left wondering why Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and company were still on the field.

Mike Tomlin was asked about that decision during his weekly press conference.

“It’s always a couple schools of thought and ways you can go there. I’ve always been one to be slow to acknowledge defeat and the acceptance of defeat. I take responsibility for those guys remaining in the game and I always do or will. It’s just something that we do. We play and we play to win.”

I’m not sure if that answer will placate the angry fans upset in seeing the stars remaining in the game, one that was clearly over by the end of the game when even Tomlin had to have accepted the loss. But his response isn’t surprising given his aggressive, never-say-die attitude.

To that point, Tomlin did recognize the potential for injuries.

“We understand injuries are apart of football but we don’t let that fear be our guide in decision making and that’s generally our approach across the board regardless of what subject or circumstance you’re talking about.”

Hindsight wouldn’t excuse the decision but the Steelers were able to walk away with all their key names healthy, which is good, considering the shopping list of other names on the injury report.

It was his “don’t live in your fears” mentality as his guide for keeping everyone in and in the case of Roethlisberger, I can’t help but wonder if a less-than-healthy, not-many-reps Landry Jones was an additional reason for playing #7 the whole way through. Jones suffered a mid-week back injury, missing Thursday’s practice though to be fair, was back fully on Friday.

The fact that no one key was hurt in “garbage time” again does not provide Tomlin with an escape hatch if you disagree with the decision but it certainly takes away the magnifying glass that would’ve been put on him if someone had.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • steelmann58

    He can defend the move all he wants but no way do i leave Ben in their still throwing Passes in a LOST game. If he would gotten Hurt especially with the Rt side of The OL playing poor and would have been lost for a period of time we be dead in the water. Also NO REASON to use DW that late in the game give the Carries to the two Backups . Why punt Ab on that last PR even if it was only a fair catch put anyone back there at that point

  • CodeNameJerk

    Good. Let them wallow in it.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Let them get every bit of that a$$ whoopin’.

  • connfyoozed .

    He should have left the starters in, because they obviously needed the practice. Taking starters out should be a reward. If you’ve scored only 3 points and allowed 34, there are some things you need to be working on.

  • Steve Johnson

    Sometimes Tomlin does some idiotic things as a Head Coach. Like I’ve said before, he’s fortunate to have owners like the Roonies. This is the Defense that Tomlin/Colbert have built. Yikes!

  • Orlysteel

    Its not that you live in your fears, it’s that the game is over, don’t leave it to chance, I know that you’re being blown out and are frustrated, but don’t leave it to chance.

  • Jacob

    If a “never say die” coach comes with the baggage of playing starters too long, I will take it.

  • connfyoozed .

    Good comment.

  • RickM

    One of these days he’ll be burned, but until then his behavior will continue. If I’m Art Rooney I say privately ‘Coach you know I have your back. But I never again want to see Ben take a hard hit when we are down by 31 points with 5 minutes left. It’s a risk the franchise should not be taking,’ But that discussion won’t happen.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Short term thinking can ruin long term goals coach at some point you just have to accept the fact that it was a no win situation and throw in the towel so players can live to fight another day

  • Mrs Bighead

    I bet Mike Tomlin loves haunted houses seeing that he never lives in his fears

  • AndyR34

    Of course he defended the decision…when has he ever acknowledged a poor one?

  • RickM

    Never. I respect everyone’s opinions on issues, but there is not a single Steelers’ fan who would be defending this decision if Ben had suffered an injury. After the fact – knowing there were no negative consequences – it’s easy to say ‘there was nothing wrong with it. Of course there was. The guy was injured 3 times last year and sending him out to take more hits with a 31-point deficit and 5 minutes left is just irresponsible. In my opinion, Tomlin likely views it as an ‘I’m in charge’ moment. The possible negative ramifications to the franchise are less important than his own authority.

  • Mark

    What?! Practice? Full speed, professional game practice?! I hope I read that wrong.

  • Mark

    You put QB2, RB3, WR 3 becomes 1, get Pouncey, DeCastro, and LT out. The only first team on the field with half of the 4th Q left should have been what remained of the D and Special Teams.

  • Mark

    The first team O should have watched the end from the sideline….embarrassed and shamed.

  • Mark

    I had a comment regarding “Rooney” something…, but it’s not worth saying…. However, I will opine buy concurring on Tomlin and Colbert’s profound inability to build a Defense. Time for change, Mr. Rooney….

  • Dshoff

    If he’s so stubborn about playing those guys when the game is lost then why doesn’t he play them in the 4th game of the preseason? It is stupid to leave your star players out there when there is NO chance that they can win the game. Also, let the other guys get some playing time just to get their feet wet. You never know when you are going to need them.

  • dany

    it’s like playing with 100 million dollars around fire. You just dont do that

    I understand Tomlin’s mentality, and Ben’s especially. I saw Favre out in the last seconds of much worse losses than this and could never understand it. These guys are competitors till the end, but that’s why there’s people above them that have to stop them when they have to

  • AndyR34

    Oh…I TOTALLY agree.

  • RickM

    I shouldn’t be so passionate lol. But risking the season for nothing just angers me. The team has invested too much for that kind of mistake.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Good point on the 4th game of the preseason. Seemed liked they spent most of the preseason protecting players from injury and he is going to risk injury to star players in the 3rd game of the season? It makes absolutely no sense and there is just no defending that it does.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Rick didn’t you know that Tomlin has part ownership of the team. That gives him free reign to make business decisions that makes absolutely no sense. Lol.

  • RickM

    Lol, sometimes it does feel that way. If Art can tell him to draft O-linemen, run the ball more, and improve the secondary hopefully he can quietly ask that it not happen again.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Hopefully, because he looks foolishly doing it. But as you said it probably won’t happen. I think we both can agree Rooney is hands off once the season starts. We’ll see, Tomlin may get another crack at doing the right thing before the season ends.

  • Ijustdontknowanymore

    Terrible coach. Terrible judge of talent. Bad at clock management. Stubborn. Can’t get the team up for a game. Bad judge of character. ( See suspensions) Also, Why can the Eagles, Cowboys, Broncos and Patriots pick up raw Quarterbacks and win and we struggle with the allegedly best in the league. Our O line did not look like the best in the NFL. Could it be coaching and game plan.

  • Bill

    This is Hoo Doo Tomlin nonsense! There is no explicable reason to keep the top players in the game. When you’re down 34-3 in the fourth quarter; you are not going to win. ” We always play to win”? how about playing to win in the future instead of mortgaging the future in a non winnable game. This is nothing more that chest beating after one of the four or so games the Steelers will lose that they shouldn’t have (And really getting their but kicked!). As usual, he’s trying to deflect criticism for not having the team ready to play and apparently not looking at or not understanding the Eagles game plans. Next time we’ll hear we’re going to unleash hell. I know good teams lose games and that’s OK but it’s not OK to get manhandled and leave the stars in so the coach can utter we play to win.

  • Steve Johnson

    Agreed! Blitzburgh no more.