Linemen Don’t Second-Guess Decision To Leave Big Ben In Game

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Head Coach Mike Tomlin received some heavy criticism following Sunday’s win, from both fans and local media, for the decision to leave quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the game in the fourth quarter. He ended up having his ankle rolled up on during his final pass attempt and was in a walking boot after the game for precautionary reasons.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Steelers had managed to mount at 24-point lead, holding a margin of 30-6, when Roethlisberger and the rest of the starting offense re-entered the game. That drive did not last long, and the Dolphins were able to come back and score a touchdown, though they did not convert the two-point attempt.

With a bit under six minutes remaining in the game, the coaching staff did sit Le’Veon Bell down, but left Roethlisberger in, and he dropped back to pass on third down, the play on which he ended up with the (apparently mild) ankle injury.

The decision to leave him in is not a big deal at all, however, say some of his teammates—namely a couple of his linemen, whose literal job it is to protect him. Right guard David DeCastro told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that “we’ve made plays like that before in that situation”, with a likely helpful note that he stayed in against Kansas City during their blowout win.

His right tackle, Marcus Gilbert, concurred with DeCastro, and with the idea of leaving him in in that situation, saying, “you have do. You take your foot off the pedal and things tend to turn the opposite way”, he said.

Though at that point, it was still a three-possession scoring margin of 18 points, and I quite frankly can’t tell you the last time a team scored 18 points in the final six minutes of a playoff game to come back and win it.

The chances of the outcome changing based on taking Roethlisberger out of the game were obviously understandably slim, yet his linemen seem to think that it was the right decision to leave him in the game with the rest of the offense—sans Bell, though DeAngelo Williams is no slouch.

What they seem to be saying is that they were still playing not just to hold the lead, but to keep going, to finish off the game, and to finish off the Dolphins. That is what they were able to do against the Bengals in Week 15, in a game that secured them the opportunity to lock up the division the following week. The offense held on to the ball for the final six minutes.

DeCastro told Rutter that he “was as surprised as you guys to see him in the boot” after the game, which Roethlisberger later said was only used as a precaution, and was not necessary. He has stated that he is ready to play on Sunday.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Kevin artis

    I wonder if we had a backup like Batch or Leftwich would that be more of a consideration with there level of experience. Laundry Jones coming off bench cold might of been a deterrent.
    I’m still in favor of taking Ben out during that time though.

  • Petherson Silveira

    Like i said before, lets play the game. Keep pounding.

  • Mark

    If the defense wasn’t playing lights out, I understand, but Miami was beaten and there was no need for Big Dummy to make a play. Throw the ball away, which was dictated by situation, time, and score!

  • falconsaftey43

    Bob Labriola said it best:

    “Let me just start with this: Aaron Rodgers took every snap in
    Green Bay on Sunday night, and the Packers defeated the Giants, 38-13.
    Russell Wilson took every snap for the Seahawks in Seattle’s 26-6 win
    over the Lions on Saturday night. Mike McCarthy, Pete Carroll, and Mike
    Tomlin all have won Super Bowls, just to reiterate their credentials.
    And both Rodgers and Wilson, along with Ben Roethlisberger, attempted
    passes on offensive series that took place with less than four minutes
    left in their games. One other thing worth mentioning: Ben
    Roethlisberger had shed the walking boot by early afternoon on Monday
    and is not expected to be hampered in any way for the game in Kansas
    City against the Chiefs.

    Now, on to this: Taking out Le’Veon Bell was doable and
    necessary, because what the offense is mainly going to be doing is
    running the football, and Bell is a running back. So you put somebody
    else in there to eat those carries. Pulling a quarterback is different,
    though, because there is no position on a team more critical to ball
    protection than the quarterback, so having Roethlisberger on the field
    to handle the football makes sense to me.

    Tomlin’s personality as a coach is to play to win and play the best
    players in the effort to win. He’s not going to be victimized by a
    comeback created by his own decision to “rest” his difference-making
    players. That’s the kind of coach he was before he was hired here, and
    it’s the kind of coach he has been since he was hired here. If Art
    Rooney II didn’t like/agree with that approach, he would’ve done
    something about it by now.

    I’m sure that the
    idea for the play-call on third-and-8 from the Miami 46-yard line with
    4:34 remaining was a quick throw to get a first down, and executing that
    properly to the degree of getting the ball off quickly before the
    quarterback is exposed to a hit isn’t too much to ask. During the play,
    however, Ben Roethlisberger did what he is wont to do, which is pull
    down the ball and start moving around in an effort to make a play.

    issue is a great one for those in the talk show business, and that’s
    fair because it is one that elicits strong opinions and long
    discussions. And if Tomlin is to be criticized for leaving
    Roethlisberger in the game, imagine what it would be like if he had
    pulled his quarterback and the Steelers lost a playoff game because “he
    had taken his foot off the gas?”

    This is the
    way the Steelers’ coach coaches and the way their quarterback plays. If
    you want to get angry at one, or both, for their styles have at it, but
    I’m guessing that at some point you’ve also cheered Tomlin for his
    aggressiveness and refusal to play not to lose, and you’ve also jumped
    to your feet as Roethlisberger was extending some play before completing
    a pass down the field in some critical situation.”

  • Steel B

    Shocker. Why would they?

  • capehouse

    The Steelers took their foot off the pedal with 2 secs to go in the 3rd qtr. anyway. They gained 4 yards in the next 3 drives.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Didn’t need to take him out, but he didn’t need to drop back at al. Hand the ball off, safe screen.. That sort of thing.

  • Soopakatt

    Preach!!!!! 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

  • srdan

    Good work

  • This was for those of you that don’t regularly visit the Steelers home page. This was from “Asked and Answered,” a weekly column that Labs does where he answers questions from fans. I bet you can’t guess what the question was…

  • terrygordon30

    Chuck Noll was criticized a lot for leaving his starters in and was especially criticized for leaving in Franco Harris in against the Colts in the playoffs when the Steelers were going for their third straight Super Bowl. Joe Ehrmann hit Franco on a clean play, but Franco ended up with injured ribs. The Steelers were already banged up at RB with Rocky, Frenchy, and Jack the hydroplane Deloplaine out. The Steelers had to face the Raiders the next week with only Reggie Harrison in the backfield, and the Steelers lost a game that they ordinarily would have won and faced the Vikings in the Super Bowl. Back then, both the Raiders and the Steelers were much better than the Vikings.

    As a side note, years later I was at a conference and was talking to the guy next to me about the play in which Franco was injured. It turned out the guy that I was taking to was Joe Ehrmann!

  • treeher

    Not to be a broken record, because I’ve said this before, but it’s not about leaving him in the game, it’s about what he does when he’s in the game at that point. Maintain ball control, milk the clock, if you HAVE to pass, then do it quickly, don’t scramble about, dump it off if no one’s open. So my criticism is (1) don’t call a pass play at that point and (2) don’t scramble to avoid the rush.

  • Brandon Watson

    I’m with you. Tomlin’s job is to make sure players maintain focus, particularly now in playoff mode. The offense went flat in the 2nd quarter, they have studs up front protecting him, so the message needed to be and should have been to send his guys back out, convert a few 3rd downs, and put a stamp on their work. This is big boy football, the risk of the sport is inherent. We saw momentum shifts even in this game, which was for once not going to come down to a 2nd half come from behind in dramatic fashion b/c if Landry Jones comes in