Mike Tomlin Explains Challenge Decisions: ‘I Was Extremely Confident’

Very few people sporting a Pittsburgh Steelers’ uniform had a good outing in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That included Mike Tomlin, whose timeout decisions were curious at best. The same could be said for his two challenge flags, the Steelers losing both, and costing the team two more timeouts. Tomlin explained his logic for each at today’s press conference.

He told reporters he alone made the decision to challenge each call, not relying on information he got from someone in his ear. That was based off his vision for each play. The first, challenging the spot on a 3rd and 4 completion that was ruled a first down. The call stood upon review.

“I went with both of those,” Tomlin said. “Very rarely will I challenge a line to gain unless there’s visually a line to gain. I was standing on the yard marker, it was maybe the 40 yard line. There was a white line. When the line to gain is a line, that’s the only time I will consider challenging a spot. Because now, the visual evidence required to flip, you probably have a better shot in terms of seeing something definitive. I was standing on the line, I didn’t think he got the line to gain, I was extremely confident in it. I challenged it. I didn’t win the challenge.”

That cost the Steelers their first timeout with under five minutes to go in the second half.

The second challenge came on an Antonio Brown incompletion late in the fourth quarter. It seemed clear the ball grazed the ground and the Steelers predictably lost the challenge. Tomlin said the same thinking went into asking the refs to look at it.

“I challenged it under again the same circumstances based on what I saw.”

Dating back to last season, Tomlin has lost five of seven challenges, including those two on Sunday. Those two were the first of 2017. His last win came in the AFC Wild Card game a year ago, overturning a call that led to a Le’Veon Bell touchdown.

Sunday was his 64th career challenge in his 11 year coaching career.

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.

  • Rob

    Cmon Mike..I’ll spot you the first one, but cmon

  • Jason

    Perhaps he should rethink his own judgement. His challenges often seem driven by emotion. Make a an uninvested 3rd party make those calls.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Decent and understandable explanation for the first, but the second challenge was just bizarre.

  • francesco

    Amazing reply.
    Now onto KC😗

  • Rick McClelland

    Mike, listen to that voice in your ear. It’s not God trying to talk to you, it’s a coach trying to tell you what is going on. Try listening and save a time out.

  • Dr. DG

    Or if you really ARE listening to God’s voice in one ear, open up your OTHER ear to hear your coaches talking. Then use your best judgment…

  • pittfan


  • pittfan

    neither burns or AB did MT any favors by trying to sell the refs.

  • Rick McClelland

    If he comes out of that tunnel carrying a Bible this week, we know we are in trouble. lol.

  • AndyR34

    If that is what you saw, better see an optometrist.

  • pittfan

    Lol. Wearing ear muffs?

  • 6 ring circus

    Disappointed in you Depot. You flag innocuous posts, while putting up stuff that shouldn’t make print from time to time. Censorship lives at the Depot…I said it.

  • RevDrEBuzz

    That is some serious gobbledegook.

  • DirtDawg1964

    Those were two brutal challenges. However, Tomlin’s record overall is pretty good. He’s won exactly half of his challenges – 32 out of 64. From 1999 to 2016, the era of the modern challenge rules, only 37% of challenges have been reversed.

  • Thomas

    This was the most infuriating part of the game for me, not just because of the result but because it revealed how backwards the process is for the team.

    You can see in documentaries on the Pats that Bill has at least 6 guys in the booth, watching various things in the game and feeding him useful information. 1 of these guys reviews the replays and decides if he should be making challenges or not.

    What that play showed is there is no guy on the booth, we are flying blind. Anyone with 2 working eyes could see that was not a Challenge-able play within 1 second and yell down to Tomlin.

    How much other opportunities must we be missing? (not just challenges but schematically too)

    We need to stop flying blind and doing things based on 1 man’s gut. There can be no argument to the contrary…He needs to put people in place to do these jobs and trust them…NOW.

  • Grant Humphrey

    I agree the first one was not a good one but I could definitely see why he challenged it. The second one was just absolutely stupid.

  • RevDrEBuzz

    No one questions Mike, no one influences Mike, no one can tell Mie what to do, he goes back to his lab and figgers stuff out, no one is to challenge Mike.

    He is a piece of work.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    So he didn’t get word from upstairs? Ugh…….

  • Alex Kozora

    lol what? our filter/flag system is automatic

  • 6 ring circus

    I get it…My apologies…

  • LHW

    This defies logic. This man is the head coach of a storied NFL organization with much clout. I am speechless. .

  • Doug Sawyer

    if he is serious about this…this team has a lot of problems going forward

  • Alex Kozora

    All good man. I went in and posted your comment. If you have an issue, just contact me or Dave. But you also gotta know what gets trapped in the filter (links/swearing).

  • Ryan Alderman

    I’d rather he’d just say I should have waited for video confirmation from upstairs first, I f’ed up, lesson learned myself. Hmm…

  • JNick

    Or maybe he should switch careers and become a full time ref. He seems to have the vision for it.

  • Nathanael Dory

    He was extremely stupid

  • melblount

    In an unrelated story, the HC of a local professional sports team was having dinner at home with his family last night.

    At some point in the dinner the HC reached across the table and forked the remaining half of his daughter’s pork chop off her plate and proceeded to wolf it down.

    The daughter was shocked but the wife was infuriated, screaming at him, “Did you NOT see she was still working on that?”

    The HC quickly quipped back, “I was extremely confident she was done with it.”

  • mtrico

    The thing is, Tomlin repeatedly does dumb things, and then says stuff like he was confident in the approach, or even better, “that’s how we play.” Not confidence inspiring.

  • Michael Conrad

    Tomlin is like a baloney sandwich its grounded up pig puss and not good for you but you like it and eat it and don’t think about the pig puss. Tomlin is very likable and we want to believe him and like him.

    When the wins stop. Fans will be mad they ate the baloney for so long.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Always an interesting question.

    I said the second he threw each of those flags it was a dumb decision.

  • Sdale

    I agree. While he’s at it, he should put someone in charge of clock management.



  • Rod Hedrick

    He is horrible with challenges~ Oh and why can’t we ever destroy teams like this. 1 freaking pass in the 2nd half…

  • 6 ring circus

    That’s why I was miffed. It had none of that. I’m gonna brush up on my *symbol* usage though.

  • Ravens Team Gynecologist

    Time to take the red flag away from him and hand it to an assistant coach, oh and the timeout management too please.

  • Thomas

    I would like them to toss that Alpha BS out…stupid AF