In his weekly press conference, Mike Tomlin was asked if he considered using one of his two timeouts on defense to preserve time, either after the long pass play to the 7-yard line or after the first-down run.
“I did, but to be quite honest with you I chose not to. I was more interested in stopping them. Particularly I knew if I didn’t utilize a timeout that the run game would be an element of the sequence and I felt comfortable about our ability to stop the run. So I was more interested in winning the sequence and less interested in the number of timeouts I was holding if we were to lose the sequence.”
Surprisingly, Tomlin was not questioned further about the statement. By calling the timeout after the first down run, it would have been more likely that the Raiders would have attempted to run the ball again, rather than throw three straight passes, in order to leave as little time on the clock as possible. If forcing the Raiders to run the ball was the desired outcome, using the timeout after first down rather than before the fourth down play would have been more beneficial.
Regardless of the decision, Tomlin went on to explain the sequence in further detail.
“We had our chances. We got them to fourth down- fourth down and six. We utilized a timeout to put ourselves in the very best call and have discussions that we thought were pertinent to winning that circumstance. We liked the people that we had on the field. We liked the call that we had. They executed better than we did. Such is life.”
Once again, a great follow-up question would have been if taking the time out in this circumstance was actually more beneficial to their opponent than it was for the Steelers. After stopping the Raiders on two straight past attempts, giving them time to think things over rather than having them be pressed for time might not have been the best idea.
Coach Tomlin went on to explain why he prioritizes keeping a time out for his offense in end-game situations.
“I like to hold a time out so we can utilize the full field if we get into those circumstances. I was able to hold one. They scored. We got the ball back. When we have that timeout we are able to utilize all components of the field. I think that helps you in those dire circumstances. It makes them have to defend the interior part of the field, etc. It gave us a chance.”
By having the time out, the Steelers were able to run the “hook and lateral” play (more commonly, yet incorrectly, known as “hook and ladder”) with more freedom. If the play did not break for a long again, or if Smith-Schuster was tackled inbounds, the Steelers would still have been able to stop the clock for one more play.
Having the time out in their pocket on offense at the end of the game was not a decision that needed explaining from Coach Tomlin. Using a time out when the clock was already stopped when, if used properly, could have allowed the team more than 15 seconds at the end of the game was something that warranted more explanation.