When the 4th quarter commenced, the score was still 14-9. The Steelers had just gotten the ball back after blowing a golden opportunity the previous possesion to deliver a potential knockout punch to the Giants. That previous drive, for those of you who either intentionally or unintentionally erased it from your memory, was the one that featured 3 penalties, including Chris K's Unnecessary Roughness call and Willie Colon's TD nullifying holding call.
You knew the team had to be deflated when they were forced to punt it away after coming so close to giving the defense the extra cushion needed to most likely hold off the Giants. But the defense showed its resolve once more, holding the Giants to a mere 1 yard on 3 plays. Their drive had started on their own 6 yard line, and we began our next drive late in the 3rd quarter on their side of the field at the 49 yard line. Moore then ran the ball three straight times for 5, 5, and 4 yards, before the third quarter expired. (Now's not a bad place to remind you that the running game was humming along quite nicely. Moore was WELL on pace to secure his 2nd straight 100+ yard game)
On 2nd and 6, we lost -2 yards. On 3rd and 8, Willie Colon jumped, and we were faced with 3rd and 13. A completion to Mewelde Moore for 8 yards set up 4th and 5 from the NYG 34 yard line.
Now, we can debate whether Tomlin should have opted for a FG, punted away (perhaps taking a 5 yard penalty to give Berger a bit more space?) or rolled the dice and gone for it like he did. Furthermore, without Greg Warren to snap, the decision was made a lot easier. His decision to go for it is not what I'm questioning. I personally agree with the call at the time, because we had not yet began our implosion in pass protection by that point. We were moving the ball fairly effectively on both that drive and in the previous drive. Tomlin sensed we had some momentum and the opportunity to close the door right there with a TD drive. But even if I did not agree with the decision, I would not be banging on it, simply because playing armchair QB about individual decisions isn't something I tend to do.
Anyway, what I'm questioning is the decision not to call a timeout there! We had all three in our backpocket, and you could tell that there was just a moment or two when Tomlin had to make that call. Well, he made the decision decisiively but every last second counts when you're trying to get a play off in time in this league. And we all know that when opposing defenses can tee off on us as the play clock expires, we're at our worst. When we're in the no-huddle and at the line of scrimmage quicker, we fare better. Pretty simple, and though we couldn't go to the no-huddle in that scenario obviously, we still should have made sure that we weren't rushing to get a play off at the last second when the Giants could really bring the heat and bring their safetys up near the first down marker. Which is what the Giants did and we were forced to throw quickly to Hines (well in front of the first down marker) on an uninspiring and hurried play.
Just not a smart move, if you ask me.
The Giants on the other hand, opted to take a timeout when they faced 4th and 1 on the ensuing drive from our 29 yard line. Now, granted, they ultimately had to settle for a FG there after converting, which they likely would have made from that distance anyway. But it still goes to show you the importance of picking the best play in your book for that moment, and that means taking your time to go through the options. They identified Amani Toomer being 1-on1 with rookie William Gay, and they knew we were probably expecting something short in the flat or a run up the middle. They took the time to call for the unpredictable, something that would have been largely impossible to pull off without the extra time to talk it over on the sideline.
This was but one individual moment in a football game filled with dozens others. But it was a pivotal one, and hopefully one that both Ben Roethlisberger and our coaching staff wil learn from. Mike Tomlin is the man for the job in my mind. His players play unbelievably hard for him, and he wants to win so badly. You can just tell. Drive, passion and leadership ability are all things you have to see out of your head coach from Day 1 through the final day of his tenure. No days off. Game management principles, choosing the correct coordinators, and in-game tactics are all things that can evolve and adapt over time. I still have faith that they will in Pittsburgh under Mike Tomlin.