The past three weeks have been a microcosm of the Mike Tomlin coaching era. His in-game decision making has been as bad as ever, and it ultimately may cost this team a playoff spot. Let’s start with the Raiders debacle three weeks ago. This game was Tomlin at his absolute worst. His first mistake was not putting Ben Roehtlisberger back in the game as soon as he was cleared to come back in. Tomlin’s quote “we were in the flow of the game” as an excuse as to why he waited to put his Hall of Fame quarterback back in will go down as one of the strangest of all time. The offense was sputtering without him, and it allowed the Raiders enough time to get back into the game. If that weren’t bad enough, Tomlin’s clock management blunders also came into play. Not using all his timeouts during the Raiders last drive in order to save time for his offense left them with no time to mount a comeback. If the Steelers miss the playoffs (as we stand that is very likely), this is the singular game we can point to for why.
Fast forward to the Patriots game the following week, and here we are again. I know what you’re thinking……this was a great coaching performance and they won. That is true, but let’s back up a moment. The Steelers had the ball with a little over two minutes left in the game nursing a four point lead. On fourth down Tomlin elects to send Chris Boswell out to try to kick a 48 yard field goal. The same Chris Boswell who the team had nearly cut during the week, AND had missed a kick earlier in the game. Another miss would have set the Patriots up with the ball in excellent field position, down by only four, and still with the two minute warning at their disposal. This could have been a monumental disaster for Mike Tomlin had Boswell not made that kick. Fortunately for him the field goal was good, and Tomlin did not have to answer for why he would risk the team’s season on a kicker they nearly let go that same week.
Next of course, we have the infamous fake punt decision against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. This was a huge misjudgment by the Steelers head coach. The risk so outweighed the reward it wasn’t even close. Giving Drew Brees a short field to work with, while the game is on the line is indefensible. Punting the ball forces the Saints to go the length of the field to score a touchdown, something they hadn’t been able to do since the opening drive of the third quarter. Tomlin’s excuse was if the fake punt didn’t work, it would leave time for his offense to respond to a Saints score. Ok what??? It really makes you question what goes through this coach’s head during games. Granted it was turnovers that ultimately cost the Steelers this game, but Mike Tomlin did not put his team in a position to win this game with that fake punt call.
There’s no hiding Mike Tomlin’s in game failures at this point. There are too many clock management issues to even list. We haven’t even discussed Tomlin’s horrendous challenge flag decisions. He’s gotten gun shy after being wrong so many times that he’s not throwing them when necessary now. The tipped pass by Stephon Tuitt just before a crucial pass interference call on that last drive is just one example. When your a coach who relies on “feel” and emotion these are the results you get. Sometimes you look like a genius, like the for instance the “immaculate extension” play against Baltimore that got them into the playoffs. Sometimes however, you lose games like Sunday that cost you a playoff birth. This is the roller coaster that is a Mike Tomlin coached football team.