Roethlisberger Frustrated With Run Play Call To Close Out First Half

While the Pittsburgh Steelers did ultimately beat the Cincinnati Bengals 29-14 Sunday at Heinz Field, their recent string of offensive woes inside the red zone continued on. The Steelers offense managed to convert just one of their six Sunday red zone trips into a touchdown and one of those failed trips came late in the first half. The end of that particular drive included a very curious play call with 12 seconds remaining before halftime that will surely be discussed quite a bit this coming week.

Following a Bengals timeout, the Steelers offense faced a 2nd down and 5 from the Bengals 5-yard-line with 12 seconds remaining in the first half. Pre snap, the Steelers offense had an empty backfield and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger then proceeded to direct running back Le’Veon Bell back to the backfield as a sidecar to his right. After the football was snapped, Roethlisberger handed the football off to Bell and he ran left behind pulling right guard David DeCastro.

Bell was quickly bottled up by the Bengals defense with 7 seconds remaining in the first half, however, head coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t able to get his timeout request heard until there were 3 seconds remaining. At that point there wasn’t enough time to run another play and kicker Chris Boswell was sent in to kick a 24-yard field goal.

The decision to run the football with 12 second remaining instead of passing it was a very dubious call. After the game was over, Roethlisberger was asked about that particular call and the events that led up to it during his talk with the media.

“We had a pass play called and we had a really good look and then I’m not sure what happened,” Roethlisberger started to explain. “The timeout, or something happened, and then we changed the play because we had a timeout. And Todd [Haley] was just telling me that we have a timeout so lets change the play. And I’m a little frustrated with that because I don’t think that’s the time and the place for that. You’ve got 7 seconds, I believe it was 7 or 8, whatever it was, with a timeout. That’s at least two shots at the end zone, but we run the plays that are called. They must have saw something, thought we can get it. I hate to just get 3-points down there, I think that’s what is so frustrating about that particular series.”

When Roethlisberger walked off the field following that failed running play you could tell he wasn’t happy. Tomlin wasn’t happy, either, but that mostly seemed to be because he thought he had a timeout called with 7 seconds remaining in the first half. Roethlisberger and Tomlin also exchanged a few heated words as the team left the field for halftime.

While the Steelers did manage to get 3-points on that drive to end the first half, the offense missed a golden opportunity to score a touchdown thanks to the failed running play and subsequent failure to get a quick timeout called immediately after Bell was tackled.

It sounds like you can put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Haley for that butchered red zone trip and thankfully it didn’t wind up costing the Steelers the game.

  • Rob S.

    I think the Run call was fine. I can’t stand when we get so Pass happy 2 yards away from the end zone and there were a few times where I thought a draw play would have worked because they were rushing 3 and dropping everybody into zone in the endzone. The problem is on the quarterback in the head coach. You know you’re running a run play so you should be standing next to the nearest official and calling a timeout at the same time as knee hits the ground. I never once saw Ben motioning to the referee he wanted a timeout and obviously Tomlin didn’t do a good job of getting an official’s attention either.

  • Zarbor

    I’m with Ben 110%…the run play was asinine and down right stupid. There is 12 seconds left and one timeout. In that scenario you can get two pass plays in to take a shot at the TD and still have time to get the field goal off. Ben is playing well and no reason not to let him come up with two plays to get it in.

    Some folks need to get their facts right. Ben state they had a pass play called and the genius Haley changed the play to a run play. Obviously him or him and Tomlin saw something or trying to outsmart the opposition and changed the play. Dumb. Ben ran the play but clearly he didn’t like the call at all especially since they had like 8 in the box playing run the WHOLE way. Just stupid.

    It was good to see Ben playing well FINALLY this season and to not ride the hot hand was a poor decision especially since Ben thrives in those hurry up offense moments. If you are a Steeler you should know this. Its a no-brainer.

  • Reader783

    If this team can figure out the red zone thing (we’ve been saying it for 3 years), we become an overwhelmingly potent team.

  • SeventhHeavan

    Red zone offense has sucked all year and today was no better. Another bad call by Haley at that particular moment. It needs to get better if we are going anywhere. Especially when we play the Pats. That offense will score 35 plus. There is no way they can match point for point with friggin field goals!

  • I.P. Freeley

    Normally, yes, but in that scenario, with only 1 TO, you HAVE to take 2 shots at the end zoner. Why on earth would you bet the farm on one play when you can have two tries if you throw?

  • Danielsteelstrong81

    Can we fix the red zone issues.. We r not going to beat the patriots with fgs

  • I.P. Freeley

    We have seen some coaching gaffes this year, but this is one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. Time and time again, this coaching staff is wasting timeouts, making atrocious challenges, god-awful redzone play calling, horrible and predictable short yardage play calling.

    Don’t get me started on the clock management. Dear God, how can a pro team, with so many brains at their diposal be so bad? This coaching staff is just not good enough with the details, and I am tired of making excuses for them. This crap coaching will not get us a trophy.

  • PaeperCup

    Oh, so Ben and Haley have talked!

  • Don

    In this situation, it’s not about run/pass balance. It’s about clock management.

  • William Weaver

    Run, call timeout and then throw one. 2 plays. Not so hard to do if someone (Ben) calls timeout!

  • Jacob

    “As the stomach turns”

    They need to quit calling each other out and just play as a team.

  • ryan72384

    Todd Haley needs to go immediately. I’ve said this about 35 times now in the comments section this season. A change in coordinators can sometimes give a lagging offense a boost. The fact that our QB hates him and his playcalling should be enough. I don’t care who you replace him with. Anyone just make a change for the sake of change to try and mix things up offensively. The offense is so stale. Field goals over TDs will bite us eventually if this continues.

  • ND_Steel

    So even coming out of a timeout, Ben, a 10+ year vet, couldn’t process the fact that he would immediately have to call his timeout if the play failed? His decision making has not been sharp.

  • Work Toward

    The run play wasn’t the problem… it was Bell’s slow butt patiently standing and weaving … Hit the hole with authority man!!!!

  • Rob S.

    But there was plenty of time to run that play and have time for a throw if you do it correctly. You’re right, it’s about clock management and Roethlisberger and Tomlin did a poor job of it.

  • Rob S.

    It’s not betting the farm on one play. He was tackled with seven seconds left on the clock. If Ben or Tomlin had been doing the right thing and called the time out immediately we had plenty of time to get another play.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Not to advocate a particular brand of insubordination, but this is on Ben. Ben has multiple options there. HE’S the QB. First, you tell Haley on the sideline that you aren’t running that play. Plain and simple. If it was Ben and Bruce, I’m pretty sure Bruce would have looked at him and said: “Run whatever you want then…” Second, if you can’t get through to Haley, you go in the huddle and call whatever you want to call. If it ends up working, you give Haley a wink afterwards. If it doesn’t, you man up, take responsibility, and move on. What are they gonna do, bench Ben? He’s been here for 13-14 years now. I think he should have basically total control to do what he wants down there. And if for some reason he doesn’t, or even if he feels that he doesn’t, then that is a serious issue with me.

    Call what they want you to call 90% of the time. But Ben should easily have the leeway to call whatever HE wants, the other 10%. And honestly, I believe more than that, but you see the point. Terry Bradshaw called all his own plays. I bet if you are Ben and you hear that amazing fact, you probably salivate at the mouth and have to shake your head. 4 Super Bowl wins sort of tell the tale.

  • NinjaMountie

    First of all, Ben shouldn’t have thrown Haley under the bus like he did. Makes me wonder if there are bigger problems with the relationship.
    Most of us know Haley is a huge contributor to the RZ woes. You need to look no further than the change with the Bengals and Dalton to see the impact play calling can have on the QB and RZ.

  • Smitty 6788

    He did the correct thing in this instance. It needs to be addressed and talked about. Haley is the problem with the redzone offense no doubt in my mind..

  • Uncle Rico.

    Roethlisberger ought be quiet. The run play wasn’t a bad idea in that situation. There was time for another play, and what was Roethlisberger doing that he was too busy to call timeout himself? Great, you had a pass play called that had you salivating when Cincy called time out. And Haley changed it to a run. Doncha think Cincy maybe called timeout because they didn’t like the match up? Do you really think you woulda seen the same look coming back from TO?

    And looking back, I don’t see what was so enticing about the matchups prior to Cincy’s TO. Bengals showed man coverage. Steelers had Brown and Bell out right matched with a CB and safety respectively. Likely a pick route, but the CB played up on Brown and the safety was off the line. That means Brown would’ve been the picker and Bell running a slant as the target. As poorly as the Steelers run rub routes, I don’t see the attraction on that side. The other side had trips. From down there and from trips the Steelers favor a triangle concept. In that the #3 always runs a flat route. And from the presnap look, that seemed to me by far the best option and match up, with Burfict in coverage on that #3. But that #3 was the same guy that just dropped the TD the play before, McDonald. I don’t see what got Roethlisberger so excited about that play versus that D. Or why he might think he’d see it again coming back from timeout.

  • Conserv_58

    Based on Ben’s comment regarding the play that was called and Haley’s changing of the play, Ben was absolved of any responsibility for clock management. That fell on Haley and Tomlin. It also gave the fan base a glimps into why the Steelers are so dysfunctional in the red zone.

  • Conserv_58

    I see Ben’s response as a reaction to being frustrated with how patheticly inept they have been in the red zone. I’m sure going one for six in the red zone in this game contributed to his frustration.

  • Mr. Goodkat

    I don’t mind changing the play call after a timeout, but with all that time why not have a run and a pass option and let Ben make the call at the line when he sees what the defense gives him?

  • Rob S.

    I don’t see it that way. As the quarterback part of your job is helping manage the clock and being in tune with the game situation. His response shows me that his head wasn’t really in it at that point. He didn’t even know how much time was left when the run play started. He said 7, but it was 12 and that’s a huge difference. If it were 7 I’d agree that it’s too tight, but 12 is enough to run, call a TO, throw quick, and kick if needed. Seems like he was too preoccupied being upset that he didn’t get the play he wanted to think about the game situation. And like I said before he certainly doesn’t deserve all the blame, most of it falls on Tomlin since he should have been standing next to an official at the snap (or even tell the official before the snap he wants a timeout if he doesn’t get in) for the purposes of calling a timeout, but Ben also had to use his brain.

  • Rob S.

    3 years nothing, that was a big thing that got Bruce Arians fired haha

  • Stairway7

    So MB wants to be traded and Ben doesn’t like Haley’s play calling. They need to get this sh*t fixed quick or the drama will tank this team in the 2nd 1/2 of the season.

  • Balok’s Plight

    I formation and power running with Nix as lead on short yardage form now on. Its not that complicated.

  • Mr. Goodkat

    Arians and Ben were a dangerous pair with the Oline they had at the time. Great vertical passing game, but I’m not sure Ben would still be playing after a few more years in that system.

  • Runner1967

    He should be it was an atrocious call and then made worse by Refs ignoring Time out call and allowing 4 seconds to run down and stopping Steelers from having one more shot at TD. The refs in this game were abysmally bad. From Jackson tackling AB on long ball, to ignoring Burfct’s constant nastiness after the whistle and allowing Bengl tackles to well tackle OLBs. Dupree was held so blatantly on one play the Bengal tackle almost span him a full 360.

  • popsiclesticks

    There’s plenty of possibility for error that costs you the 3 points, IMO.

  • Lambert58

    I was frustrated too. Didn’t understand that call at all. Two quick pass plays, hopefully score, if not, you kick the FG. Pretty obvious, I thought.

  • Dan

    The plan was fine. It’s a decent idea to through a run in there if the defense shows they’re more aligned to stop the pass. With 12 seconds, you can get the time out called with 6-7 seconds left 90% of the time. But sometimes a pile will move slowly or the refs will be slow to stop the clock (as in this case), so that is the calculated risk. The coaches were obviously mad at the refs and I was as well, but them’s the breaks. It’s a risk and we missed an extra shot at 7 points. We got the 3, which is better than 0. And there’s no gaurantee what would have happened if we had the extra play. Could’ve been a pick-six.

  • Dan

    It needs to be talked about in the offices and the filmrooms. Not in front of the media.

  • Ben is a 14 year veteran, 2 time super bowl winning quarterback. I’m pretty sure he has the authority to check out of a run play if he see’s the defense in a certain look. Totally his fault on that one.

  • StillersInThe6

    Maybe he doesn’t care/would rather it aired out in public? Maybe he’s had enough of Haley and realizes a lot of the team/fanbase has as well. No one’s replacing Ben until he retires. So really the only person that suffers with throwing Haley under the bus is Haley.

  • PaeperCup

    We’ve seen Ben a million times audible out of the run to call a pass. But those are usually done when he reads the defense. I wonder if he didn’t call out of the run because they got the good look for the run and he didn’t want o undermine the coaches game management in this situation.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    If the blame is squarely on Haley, why was Ben exchanging heated words with Tomlin? Seems to me, at the very least, that Tomlin supported the decision to call a run there. It was a poor decision to run the ball in that situation/ scenario. It was an abysmal decision to call a run that involved pulling the guard.

  • Chris92021

    Haley is definitely a problem but the inconsistent red zone issues go back to the days of Bruce Arians as well. Maybe it is Big Ben problem that is further exacerbated by the Haley problem.

  • LAD

    I was ok with the run play, but yes, Ben or Tomlin should have been in front of the officials to call the TO as soon as the play ended. Another issue that I have not seen anyone commenting on, is that Bell started to dance waiting for the hole… I love when he does that, but situation awareness was lacking.. with few seconds on the clock you run straight and allow your team to get another chance to the End Zone.

  • Rocksolid20

    Ha Ha Ha Ha is that the 30 points a game most of these fans speak of ?

  • William Weaver

    Agree. All of this should have been discussed quickly prior to the play instead of arguing about the play change.

  • treeher

    0-4 on 3rd and 1, 0-1 on 4th and inches, multiple red zone failures … yet productive plays elsewhere. At some point, you have to blame play calling and play design. The players are capable of executing but you have to give them a chance. Calls on the field had little or no chance, Bengals were ready for them. IMO, Steelers take long shots when they don’t need to but then get overly conservative when they don’t have to.

  • Matt Manzo

    I can’t imagine how pissed David Todd is gonna be!

  • francesco

    Also as a veteran he can call a timeout?!

  • LHW

    I think Ben knew the run play had was crap? So maybe not calling a run play was a problem in and of itself. He can improvise with the ball in his hands – he can’t do that with a predetermined crappy run play that he knows is unlikely to have success. Just look at the short yardage situations they were in.

  • Z Vranic RMT

    This is a case of bad football by the men who are paid alot to know better.
    1st Todd Haley has to put i plays that give the team a chance to get 7 in that time span. I dont know whats the beef with Martevious, but if your not going to use your 6’5″ wideout in this jumpball situation when are you.. Cmon Todd use the personnel better!
    2nd Coach T. You should be holding the refs hand when u know this has to be a quick timeout! Ditto for BB be aware and start screaming right away.
    3rd Big Ben. Your in command. The Captains and Majors fight. You dont like the play audible out of it and throw. By niw you should have that right! Dont just say well he called it ( Haley) so I ran it. Be the man . Bradshaw audibled a great play in the 2nd SB win over Dallas. Do the same.
    Pitt one but this crap has to stop PDQ

  • Mark

    It is 100% safe to conclude Todd Haley ruined what is probably the best Offensive team we ever had with his stupid plays, play calls. We will never win a Superbowl with him running the offense. I feel bad for Ben, Bell, Brown, Bryant, Juju, Mac, JJ, the entire line. Three words: Red Zone Offense.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Except when Ben has too long a leash then Bad Ben starts showing up, and our all world RB get 7 carries a game.

  • Mark

    Haley sucks. Can anyone honestly defend his play calls?

  • Mark

    Amen. I would run every stupid play Haley calls to prove he is just an awful OC

  • Mark

    This is no Superbowl caliber staff. Not close.

  • exactly!!!!!

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Exactly, those 3 are not in Sync Haley, Tomlin an BB!

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Ben Throws everyone under The bus almost every week!

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Certainly, I remember that!

  • Michael Pollard

    It will be interesting to see if there’s a shot of the sideline after that play. See what Tomlin was doing. It’s his job to be standing next to a ref if they’re going to run it so he can call a TO as soon as the play is over.

  • nutty32

    Ben throwing Todd under the bus, again. What a surprise. That’s Ben’s job because he’s the leader/s.

  • Mark

    No it was not in that situation. You have 5 potential pass catchers in that situation so you throw the football. I don’t blame Ben in that situation and I blame him a lot.

    However, Ben sounded really immature, “We run the play as called”. We pay you to take us out of bad situations to improve our chances to score. Cincy was stacked to stop that run play, so change the call back to a pass, I’m definitely sure our $20 mln QB has the ability to do that.

  • NinjaMountie

    And there is my favorite Ben basher.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Maybe. But I’ll take Bad Ben right now at the goalline and 3rd and 1, if it meant a better conversion rate than Haley is giving us.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Ben specifically said the pass play that was called beforehand had given them the good look. He then said there was a timeout and Haley wanted to change the call to a run. Ben also didn’t say the run call also gave them that same good look. Heck, most of us watching saw them cheating up to stop the run there.

    I certainly am not screaming that they went run over pass, because I generally would rather pound it when down low. But time considerations and a more stretch run play, like they ran, all just lead to someone, somehow, then not getting the timeout again quick enough, so it all ended up looking really bad. Which, caused Ben and Tomlin to exchange a few choice words as they all ran off. It didn’t look good. One of the few real blunders in what was a beautiful day overall!

  • WilliamSekinger

    I’m with ya there on giving Ben slightly more freedom on the goal line and short yardage. It seems in the past the offense has always found a happy medium between bad Ben and control freak Haley. This year they havent been able to find that middle ground.

  • Pete DelleGrazie

    I love that the head coach was upset too, Does he not have a headset??? He can overrule anything there and tell Haley, get me 2 pass plays ..OR to a lesser degree, as a 14 year vet QB, you can say i want the ball in the air here…

  • Michael Mosgrove

    not ben’s fault that haley is subpar and always have been.

  • P – squared

    Who would you rather have that is available?

  • Generic Steelers Fan

    We are the same person

  • Generic Steelers Fan

    More evidence to FIRE HALEY

    What people don’t realize and that no other OC in the league ever makes stupid calls like that. If we had LITERALLY ANY OTHER OC we would have scored a td on every possession.

    We need to clean house of Haley and tomlin before the buy and scrap together a new team game plan and new program on the cuff.

    It’s time for knee jerk reactions!

    5-2 and on top of the afc after defeating the top 2 defenses in the league is unacceptable. This team should be 8-0 by week seven. Point blank period.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    EXACTLY. The defensive looks were definitely going to change post TO. I didn’t watch this game but what I want to know is where is Martavis Bryant? Bryant is clearly your best physical specimen at the receiver position, bar none. This man has a 40-inch vertical, Beast of a specimen, quick as hell and runs like a gazelle and they can’t get him in on offense in the red zone!!?? THAT is another issue that has to be owned by Hayley or Tomlin. No excuse for MB not to be on the field in that instance. If I were Bryant, I’d want to get away from this offense this quarterback, this HC & this OC as fast as possible while I’m in my peak.

  • pittfan

    No doubt! Let’s bring in Ken Zampese, he’s looking for work. Anybody but Haley.

  • pittfan

    I don’t recall ever seeing MB being thrown a back shoulder fade route. His long speed is great, just not sure about his short area quickness and footwork.

  • pittfan

    All of them or just the ones that result in bad plays?

  • Generic Steelers Fan

    He did a bang up job in Cincinnati setting record lows. Steelers set all time highs under Haley, but that’s irrelevant.

    I say fire Haley and bring in the Zamp

  • pittfan

    Snap him up before someone else does

  • Generic Steelers Fan

    Has Haley ever done a single thing right since he’s been here (not counting setting record team highs)?

    The answer is no. This team is a mess right now and it’s all because one person: Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin.

    Fire them both.
    This never would have happened under Cowher.

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Thanks for The title Lol, but In The last few weeks Ben did it with Bell, Bryant, Brown and even Tomlin, or am I wrong?

  • Aj Gentile

    How are the Falcons playing with their new coordinator?

  • Aj Gentile

    I don’t see an issue with a run play down there with 12 seconds left and a timeout. That is still two shots you have at the end zone. When did Tomlin call the timeout? I was sure that they were going to show video of when Tomlin wanted the timeout but they never did.

  • Mark


  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Yep. And it’s a shame apparently that he’s so underutilized or not utilize near the end zone like he supposed to be with his size strength and vertical hops