Roethlisberger Says Decision Not To Spike Came From Sideline

Things sure could get crazy in a hurry in close games as the clock ticks down. We saw an awful lot of chaos over the course of the final three minutes of tonight’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots, but the most damning bit of confusion evidently came just prior to the penultimate snap of the game, the Steelers’ final offensive play.

The defense just gave up five-play, 77-yard, 1:10-long go-ahead touchdown drive, which the Patriots capped off with a two-point conversion that put them up by three points. The offense was left with 52 seconds and one timeout to try to score a touchdown to take the lead. And it very nearly worked.

On the first play of the drive, Ben Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster over the middle, who was able to work up the sideline and then back to the middle of the field for 69 yards, on a play that used their final timeout. After Jesse James’ 10-yard reception on the final play was overturned, things got rather hectic.

Roethlisberger faced pressure on second and 10, eventually hitting Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was unable to get out of bounds. After the game, Roethlisberger said that he wanted to spike the ball to stop the clock, even though that would have made it fourth down.

Instead, he heard from the sideline, according to Gerry Dulac, that they did not want to give up the down. But when you are the quarterback and you are told on the fly not to do what you planned on doing, things can get a bit messy.

They did, and on the subsequent third-down play, as time ticked down, he was again under pressure, but ultimately forced pass over the middle on a slant to Eli Rogers, which was defended and batted into the air, plucked away for an interception by a defender, ending the game.

Now, there are a number of things to discuss here, not the least of which being whether or not Roethlisberger, as the foremost leader of the team, should have even divulged this information, as it presents the appearance that he is criticizing the sideline and deflecting blame.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin after the game, by the way, that he didn’t have a problem with the decision to run the play and go for the win, rather than attempt the field goal. The way it was phrased seems to indicate that he was not aware that the directive not to spike the ball came from the sideline—presumably from Todd Haley.

I’m sure these are the angles that will be most discussed about the decision, but my biggest concern is a quarterback running a play that he is not prepared to run. This does not excuse the decision nor the throw that he made on the play that lost the game, however.

UPDATE: Dulac says it was Tomlin, not Haley, who made the call.

About the Author

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

    Whose decision was it to throw to eli when he wasn’t open?

  • Rob

    100% agree. There is already enough pressure in playing football at this stage. I’d be frazzled by going out there going against what makes sense to me. Especially if the slant was called from the sideline.

    But still, Ben has always failed to throw the ball OOB when he needs to. This was one of those times.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    They should’ve already had a play called for third down with a running clock before ever playing the second down. Are they high school footballers out there? And why would been want to waste the down just to tie it? And why run a fake spike? Defense isn’t fooled in that situation, in fact gives them the advantage!

  • Chris92021

    He wears number 7.

  • DSG

    And into coverage of like 6 players?

  • Chris92021

    Have you seen Todd Haley? He’s not exactly Bill Walsh when it comes to offensive football.

  • Michael Cunningham

    Ben does not like throwing incomplete passes .. it’s just his nature
    he’d rather take a sack but in this case he couldn’t
    he should have thrown it over the goal posts and went into OT

  • PA2AK_

    Please let us not dissect that play. Not why we lost.

  • WeWantDaTruth

    On this play, why is Lev Bell #26 just standing there watching?

  • Doug Andrews

    With Jessie James standing right next to him wide open

  • J.

    Spike kick the field goal and go to OT. I know some love and support Tomlins aggressive attitude but there are times to play smart and this was one of them.

  • David Chapman

    Did they tell you to throw into triple coverage? They trusted you and you failed that trust. Move on.

  • Doug Andrews

    Agree we could second guess a lot of plays like the 3rd down n 4 at the end of the game. BB just locked on to Juju with Eli wide open

  • Chad Sanborn

    spike it, kick the FG and play overtime. That was the best and smartest thing to do. Todd Haley has never been smart. We didn’t, and we lost.

  • Willie

    That was the right play call, but terrible execution.. Bad pass by Ben..

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Pretty much everyone except Rogers was standing and watching. Do they not have everyone go out for passes in this situation?

  • Chad Sanborn

    Todd Haley better be on the losers list tonight! Several questionable calls in the last 2min of play. Why do you chince out and put the game into the hands of the best QB in the league who has 3 time outs and 2 minutes? Horrible Todd Haley.. Horrible.

  • Steve

    Ben plays to win! In this case it’s high risk, high reward, but no reward. In saying that, without him we wouldn’t have been in the position to possibly win. Hell, we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in heading into the playoffs as a possible 2 seed. The game wasn’t lost on that play. They lost it on the drive prior when they played safe while they were winning. You can’t play safe and just run a few minutes off the clock against teams like this. I wouldn’t trade 7 for anyone. Not after the dismal years of sh!tty QB play prior to drafting him.

  • Chad Sanborn

    as soon as Eli broke inside he should have thrown high and out of bounds

  • treeher

    That didn’t lose the game. Aside from getting ROBBED by the stripes, we lost the game in the prior two possessions when Haley went ultra–conservative on us.

  • Chad Sanborn

    agreed.

  • PA2AK_

    Or how we can put one man on Gronk with the game on the line….8 catches in a row.

  • EdJHJr

    I know some hs graduates who need a job , maybe nfl ref, rules committee or who looks at these replays.

  • The Chin

    We are still gonna win it all. I’ve never been more certain. Get AB healthy, Gilbert back, and Joe Haden. We are winning it

  • Bullfrog Man

    Putting Davis on Gronk had a lot to do with it.

  • thechamp

    overall good game , kinda expected a loss
    my concern is can ab comeback for the playoffs 🙁
    steelers now really need postseason bye more than ever

  • Jason Vancil

    Just run a regular play here.

  • johnhoien

    I like the call not to spike.. Heck you may not get a better chance in OT, However, Tony Romo said it best in his anylisis of the play.. It’s situational football.. You throw fade routes & hope for a TD.. Very difficult to intercept the fade.. Then if it’s incomplete, you have 4th down to kick the field goal.. I like the call but not the play

  • Chris

    He got conservative without ab but couldn’t afford to. Tough loss.

  • Danielsteelstrong81

    I heard AB should be back healthy for playoffs

  • Chris

    They called fades and Rogers ran a slant into triple coverage.

  • 2winz

    problem was we had the shortest receiver out wide.. eli rogers.. I just don’t get it. I have no problem with going with a play instead of spiking it, but we had to have better personnel on the field than that.

  • Nathanael Dory

    I dont care where it came from lol. Ben had no business thowing that ball.

  • Conserv_58

    JuJu was standing to his left near the goal line uncovered.

  • Nolrog

    Teams get all stupid when playing the Pats. Should have been a fade to the corner where only the WR could catch it, and if not, it goes incomplete and we kick the FG. Idiotic play.

  • Nolrog

    And who would you have cover him? It’s not like there were better options.

  • Nathanael Dory

    Well Ben was under pressure so i can understand that. More a reason why he shouldnt have throw that

  • Edo M

    my take. tomlin said he was playing to win the game, but i dont think he actually knew what the time left was because that really wasnt a bad call altho they only had one receiver with 4 players on him..ha..BUT, if Ben would have just thrown an incomplete pass there was still enough time to kick the field goal…but unfortunately i dont think either tomlin or haley was thinking that..i think they thought to just run that play out of desperation which is horrific coaching when you are assured of at least a chance in overtime..botto line belichek is playing chess and haey/tomlin cat count to 5.

    also, why would they not put a hat on gronk in the 2nd half? at least chip him. i thought they should have tried watt on him instead of just sitting back and letting him pick us apart…Every game!

  • Wayne’O

    Why was 2 plays not called after the JJ non TD? Everyone just standing around waiting for the spike after the Heyward-Bey catch.

  • Steve

    And completely out of the play. Both players to the left were standing there just watching instead of being engaged into the play

  • Conserv_58

    I said a couple of days ago that Mike Hilton and Sean Davis will be key in covering Gronk.

  • steelburg

    I disagree you have a vetern QB who made a bone headed decision. The Pats came in and took a knee after the play so there was plenty of time to run that play. IMO the call to go for it and not spike it was right. The play call and the QB decision was the only 2 things wrong on that. They gave themselves another chance to win in regulation which I think was the right call.

  • gentry_gee

    Poor ball location too. That’s got to be low and ahead of receiver. He threw it behind and high.

  • nutty32

    Plenty of time to run a normal play instead of the fake spike. We panicked and paid the price. Devastated. I hate life.

  • psteelers

    The right play was not to spike the ball. You throw a fade to the endzone and kick the field goal. Just own it, you blew it. This is the biggest difference with him and guys like Rodgers and Brady. When the play is successful he makes sure he let’s everyone knows, “we went no huddle and just called the plays on the field”. Now this crap. Take ownership of this, even if it was called in from the sideline. Geez, You are a 13 year veteran not a rookie. The coach should feel comfortable enough to know you wouldn’t force the ball in all of that traffic to the smallest guy on the field.

  • PA2AK_

    Only if your opinion is that we put him one on one with minutes to go when they were down. Not sure who they thought was going to be getting the ball but there might be one or two guys MAYBE in all of NFL that can go man up on gronk

  • PA2AK_

    Partially torn calf. He’s got what three weeks?

  • WreckIess

    Doesn’t matter who made the call. The pass was atrocious.

  • Steel City Slim

    I don’t have a problem with them not spiking the ball, but I would’ve rather seen them go to Bryant or JuJu on that play.

  • melblount

    You had to know if this game came down to coaching, we’d lose.

    As I’ve said many times tonight, and many times over the years, Mikey is a DOPE.

    So tired of the Mikey apologists.

    I pray Mikey and Haley are gone at the end of this season.

  • melblount

    We’ll be lucky to get a bye, and we’ll be very fortunate to get past JAX.

  • melblount

    Been saying it all night since the AV holding penalty.

    BB’s expressions after those two failed 4th Qtr drives said it all.

  • Dofdmp

    Funny they stopped using the tallest receiver, twords the end of the game…Strange

  • melblount

    Good grief. Did you even read the tweet? BB wanted to spike the ball. Mikey wanted to throw it.

  • gentry_gee

    For it to work it has to be perfect location. That’s what Montana did all the time, right in the wheelhouse. Ben threw it high, late and low. Signs of older reflexes.

  • melblount

    Mikey wouldn’t know what playing smart was if it hit him in the face.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Hmm. I’m gonna immediately file this one directly under:

    “Who gives a damn.”

  • Steel City Slim

    Lol. This team is 11-3 and the #2 seed in the AFC. They wouldn’t have got their without “Mikey”. “Mikey” is going nowhere.

  • The Chin

    Or we will beat two cruddy teams to end the season all while getting Gilbert back on O and Joe back on D.

  • melblount

    Because we have DOPES for coaches.

  • Jeremy Morris

    Obviously it didn’t work out great, but with Shazier out, Sean Davis was probably the best option to cover Gronk. Should have given him some help though.

  • melblount

    Great post.

  • melblount

    This TEAM is going nowhere because a DOPE coaches it.

  • newguy68

    I have no problem with not spiking the ball, but it was a bad decision by Ben. Fade to Bryant or get the ball into Bell”s hands or throw it away.

  • Steel City Slim

    Oh please. Were you saying that when they won the 11 games? No. So stfu!

  • melblount

    If Haley doesn’t get fired after our early playoff exit this season, pretty sure this will be it for Ben. He ain’t gonna risk life and limb any more playing for a DOPE.

  • melblount

    That play was as DUMB as it gets.

    Russell Wilson is smiling tonight. His misery finally has company.

  • PA2AK_

    You can see it that way. You can also see it as Ben beat Brady when Ben didn’t have his biggest offensive weapon and without any defense to speak of in the second half.

  • sdkeller72

    And Butler went back to playing zone after dominating Brady playing man for 55 minutes.

  • melblount

    I’ve been saying it all year, bud. I’ve actually been saying it for most of Big Ben’s best years that have been pi$$ed away by DOPES getting paid to be HC’s and OC’s.

    So why don’t you do ufts?

  • sdkeller72

    Jax is gonna get smoked if they come back to the Burgh.

  • sdkeller72

    And of course there was no way the refs were going to call PI on that INT. They NEVER make game changing calls at the end of games.

  • sdkeller72

    How can one throw it high and low at the same time?

  • Steel City Slim

    Lol. I seriously doubt that, you dope. You probably were too busy wetting your panties to watch the game bud. 😂😂😂😂😂

  • melblount

    Well then you must have no problem with us now having virtually no chance to even advance to the SB.

  • melblount

    I think you may be doing the smoking. I watch JAX every week. Their D is crazy good. As long as Bortles doesn’t choke, they’ll probably cream us.

  • Hec

    Eli ran the wrong route and Ben panicked and threw an errant pass out of desperation. Tough pill to swallow, but I feel this lost was a good thing for them take so they could grow from a game like this. To beat the Patriots this team has to learn to remain composed under pressure.

  • melblount

    You seriously doubt what?

  • mtrico

    How does the thought to spike that ball even enter the equation. There was plenty of time to run a play, and the fact that apparently no one kew what was going on instead of having a play ready to go is shameful.

  • Steel City Slim

    No chance? We’re currently the #2 seed in the AFC. We have a great chance to advance to the SB. Only a fairweather, bed wetting sissy gives up on the game before it’s even played. Grow a spine dude.

  • PA2AK_

    Took them over 10 years to adjust to Brady’s offense. By the time they adjust for gronk he will be retired

  • Steel City Slim

    I seriously doubt you were whining about Tomlin after the 11 wins like you are now you dope. 😂😂😂😂😂

  • melblount

    Shameful indeed.

    The thought to spike the ball came into being when lack of thought caused us to inexplicably NOT have another play called for 3rd down.

    But as we know, stoopid is as stoopid does, and we have enough stoopid on the coaching staff to ruin what MIGHT HAVE BEEN a REAL CHANCE to get to the SB.

  • melblount

    Well, you’re as dumb as you sound.

    If you can read, go back and read the comments for the past season(s).

  • Steel City Slim

    Which would still make me 10 times smarter than you, you dope. 😂😂😂😂😂

  • Rich Stafford

    HOF QB can’t force a ball to your 6th string WR in a crowd in that situation. Period, on Ben 100%. Brady has thrown 1 pick in 12 years. How many soul crushing red zone picks has Ben served up in this series? I’ll bet Rodney Harrison can remember one.

  • NinjaMountie

    Why would you spike when you have a timeout? Makes no sense. You either call the timeout or run a play. Spike shouldn’t even be in anyone’s mind. STUPID!!!!!

  • StillersInThe6

    Maybe the right call against most teams, not against Tom Brady. You have a future HOF QB in Ben you don’t waste that down that could win the game, you take a shot at the endzone. Nothing wrong with the decision to take a shot. Brady wins coin flip and then the game, essentially. Nah, I’ll take a shot – we aren’t simply satisfied to be in a tight game with the Pats, we’re playing to win. Ben just needs to be smarter and I can live with the game being put in his hands.

  • psteelers

    They had no timeouts

  • Shane Mitchell

    I would say he was the absolute worst choice to try to cover Gronk in man coverage, Sean Davis sucks in man coverage.

  • ryan72384

    If JuJu had stayed outside instead of cutting back in he either scores or gets pushed out of bounds. Looked like only 1 defender left with an angle but he had a blocker.

  • NinjaMountie

    You’re right. They used it after the JuJu play didn’t they.

  • NinjaMountie

    Meh, we can second guess everything. I just did below. Truth is it broke bad for us this game. We’re still fighting for the 1 seed. We’re okay. Teachable moment lol.

  • psteelers

    Yes.

  • NinjaMountie

    Thank you. I stand corrected.

  • psteelers

    Curious as to why Hey Bey was in the game and Martavis wasn’t. Especially after the play was overturned.

  • Steve

    I did read the tweet. I was commenting on some of the posters comments

  • Dan

    All in all, two pretty evenly matched teams. I figured it would come down to some – maybe flukey – final play. Had we spiked it or thown it away on that last play, there’s no more than a 50/50 shot we’d have won in OT. For me my wrath is directed at the competition committee for the stupidest rule in all of football, that allows for refs to declare that a receiver uncatches a ball. Once it’s caught, it’s caught! Rediculous rule!

  • Steve

    You’re right. Bench him. By the way, he took ownership for the errant throw

  • Gregory S Benjamin

    No question Ben should take the blame for the INT, but I think that vaunted O-Line shares some of the responsibility on those last two plays as well. Not getting at least an illegal contact or defensive holding call on that play among quite a few others didn’t help. Still, I can think of much worse than losing a home game to the Pats and still being 11-3 with the Texans & Browns on tap.

  • Zach Ribel

    2 drop TD and drop int

  • Rich Stafford

    One play doesn’t lose a game but the interception is unforgivable in that situation. Saying the decision came from the sidelines is a bad look. Say you take full responsibility and move on.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Thank you Steve –

    I’m as upset about the outcome as anybody here, but overall Ben played a great game. 22/30, 281 yards, 2TD/1INT.

    There is plenty of blame to go around (amongst our team) but what it comes down to is… We won this game. And the refs took it away. James catch was ruled a TD on the field. The ball did move, but there was no conclusive evidence that the ball hit the ground. The NFL rule book says that play should stand. Someone in the NFL office overturned it. Just like the Jets vs Pats game.

  • Rich Stafford

    Didn’t say bench him. All time choke job was a team effort. Steelers are to NE as the Bengals are to.the Steelers. The. Most pessimistic fan could not have dreamed up a more soul crushing ending.

  • Renohightower

    spike the ball kick the field goal and live to fight another down

  • melblount

    This loss ranks right up there with the 94 AFC Title Game loss to the Chargers. Easily one of the worst Steelers losses of all-time, especially given the almost inexplicable stoopidity that caused it:

    (1) going conservative against THIS TEAM after the AV holding penalty in the 4th Qtr (BB’s expressions after those two failed drives said it all) and

    (2) the absolute insanity of our our last two offensive plays.

    Only a Mike Tomlin coached team – and I guess a Pete Carroll coached team – could have done themselves in with those final two plays.

    Tomlin said “we play to win.”

    Earth to Mikey, you might want to have a real play called on 3rd Down if you really think anybody is gonna buy that kind of crap.

    Perhaps he meant to say, “We play to win to the best of my ability.”

    Now that I’d buy.

  • Steel City Slim

    Ben should’ve known not to force the ball into triple coverage in that situation. If the play wasn’t open, throw the ball out of the endzone and let Boswell tie the game up.

  • heath miller

    I LOVEEEEEEEEEEEE IT .. with JH back (haden not harrison or both maybe) .. with AB back … with the HUGEEEEEEEEEEEE chip on our shoulder from getting F – ed in this game .. we go to NE and win … HEATHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Book It

  • Bullfrogman

    No I’ve been complaining about his play for weeks. I expect Gronk to have a good game against anyone but not that good especially since the whole world knew who the ball was going too. We have had drafted many cover safeties better than this. We better come up with something better or we don’t have a shot against NE as long as he’s on the roster.

  • terry

    I find it hard to believe that every other receiver would just stand there unless they thought Ben was spiking it. A one route play call into the teeth of the defense is highly unlikely to be your best option.

  • Alan Tman

    I’m not buying that one. Eli is the only one in the pattern. That’s Ben being Ben.

  • terry

    Yep, one pump fake at Eli and a quick pitch to Jesse and he walks in untouched

  • Bullfrogman

    First thank you for keeping your answer classy for it’s tough on all of us to have watched this. I’ve been watching Sean Davis play subpar for a while so he has been in my doghouse for a while. From missed tackles to dropped interceptions now this. We haven’t drafted a good safety since Troy. Your right we can’t do anything now. If anything we should have put a corner on him. We have better cover guys.

  • terry

    They all were, that’s how you know it was not a designed play or called in from the sideline. Ben freelanced and made a god awful decision. Someone of his experience should know way better then that.

  • terry

    Exactly, what scares me is with Ben’s experience. He should have known better to even throw that ball. It just had zero chance of getting home and to not have one other person running a route on that play is ridiculous .

  • terry

    Yep, and sadly no one else even ran a route. They were all just standing there. ( All I could do was shake my head in disbelief )

  • Mark

    Encouraged yet dismayed. Butler, what purpose does Mitchell serve staying deep and not running with Gronk, when it’s obvious that Brady is only going to Gronk. How about doubling Gronk on the 2 point conversion with Mitchell and force Brady to find someone else.

    Very disappointed in Butler on that last drive.

  • Paul Barnett

    I call BS on the way the game ended and the nation fake league(NFL). Wrestling and the NFL, go hand in hand.

  • DSG

    Or you can see where brady beat ben without his best wr, their best inside ilb, several starters, (wr,olb,de,db) on the road, on a short week.

  • Intense Camel

    Ben’s decision making at times scares me more than any defense.

  • TJ Judson

    Yep, forget the James play. Why is no one taking about Tomlin punting on 4th & 1? Sure it’s ballsy to go for it on your 30, but **obviously** better than kicking to Brady with time, timeouts & 4 downs to work with. Did *anyone* really think NE wouldn’t score? I was positive they’d score and get the conversion. Tomlin is a retarded 3rd grader compared to Belicheat. Remember when NE skipped a FG try for a 4th down play and ended up with a TD? That’s how you play big games… put the ball in your best players hands to win.

    Pick is 100% Ben’s fault. Why throw the 2nd down checkdown to make 3rd a scramble? Why fake a spike when no one has fallen for that in 5 years? Why call a slant? Why throw late over the middle? Tomlin & Ben are just too stupid.

  • Conserv_58

    I have to agree that the decision to punt in that situation, with one yard to go for a first down, was gutless.

  • Conserv_58

    The problem with the teachable part is Butler still has Davis and Mitchell defending Gronk. There is also the lesson learned that it was obvious that the patriots offensive coordinator didn’t fear Bud Dupree since they doubled up on TJ a lot and left Dupree singled up with their RT. The only time we really noticed Bud was when he and Tuitt sacked Brady.

  • Conserv_58

    The design of that play call was seriously flawed because it left no other option for Ben to throw to. Why not call a play that gives Ben multiple options, especially one that has JuJu and Martavis sliding out and away from coverage?

  • 695hoops

    Dude has been a douche all year. He is a consistent Tomlin hater with no good reason at all.

  • 695hoops

    First of all we are winning the super bowl. Second of all I have to agree with Deon Sanders and Tomlinson. They were disgusted by Ben once again throwing his coaches under the bus after he screwed up. They said that’s how he operates and it’s true. It’s sickening to see that. He is the one who threw that terrible pass.

  • Shawn S.

    Ouch. Wasn’t thinking of that.

  • treeher

    Well, he mixed it up. I thought Davis was 1-1 with the Gronk.

  • nd fan

    Exactly if he has to be told to run a play instead of spiking it he isn’t the brightest, they had plenty of time to call and execute a play. Why are you throwing short of the endzone in that situation anyway, endzone or throw it away. Don’t blame coaches for your stupidity.

  • steelburg

    I 1000 percent agree. But Tomlin will take ownership of the play like he always does when Ben starts playing the blame game. That’s part of the reason why I’m a huge Tomlin fan something like this would destroy some teams. I know Jay Gruden would 100 percent call his QB out for the INT.

  • Steel City Slim

    I was thinking that he may be a troll. Probably a Browns fan or something.

  • J.

    Exactly we have a HOF QB who wanted to spike the ball.

  • J.

    If we were on the road then you go for the win at home you go for overtime. Yeah you can say bad decision by Ben but its not like its his first one in this situation. Heck even last week on the second to last play before the FG he made an ill advised throw off his back foot that could have easily been intercepted. We got lucky it wasnt but it was a bad play that got overlooked because it fell incomplete and we won the game.