The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in Week 8 by defeating the Cleveland Browns 15-10, but it wasn’t as if the game went off without a hitch. In fact, if someone just glanced at the box score once the game had finished, they might have thought Chris Boswell kicked five field goals to win the game for the Steelers on the road.
But those who watched the game know Boswell made one kick and then was sent to the locker room, and eventually the concussion protocol, after a fake field goal went south in a hurry.
With fans still seething over the decision to run the fake when they did, in the waning moments of the second quarter with the Steelers slated to receive the football to start the second half, Mike Tomlin took to the podium after the game to answer questions. But before media got a chance to pepper the coach about the decision, Tomlin fell on the proverbial sword for the play which has his kicker’s availability in Week 9 in jeopardy.
“I’m just really appreciative of the efforts of the guys in that locker room there. Everybody just played a selfless game. They put the collective in front of personal agendas. We fought.” Tomlin said. “That’s the only way you get out of those environments, particularly with some of the adversity we faced today, some of which was created by us. Some of which was created by me. The fake field goal was a bad call because we poorly executed it, so I take responsibility for that. I appreciate the guys backing my play, fighting for 60 minutes, and delivering a victory and making it a side note. Awesome win. Hopefully, we grow from this. Every time you step into stadiums you do. It’s good to grow when you’re doing so with a victory.”
Tomlin has a way with words, but if he thought for a second that summation was going to be considered enough for even the media, let alone the fan base, he would be considered crazy. When pressed about the decision, Tomlin said they were playing to win.
“We were just playing to win. We were playing aggressively.” Tomlin remarked. “The ball was on the left hash. We had a look that we liked. We just didn’t execute it very well. The ball wasn’t snapped in a timely manner, and it allowed them to take a picture of it. When that happens, you’re not going to be successful. Again, I take responsibility for it. I shouldn’t have called it unless we were ready to run it with detailed execution and it’s obvious that we weren’t. That’s on me.”
When teams typically run these types of plays, they like to do so with certain criteria being checked off in-game. As Tomlin said, the ball was on the left hash mark, and they had a look they liked. So they rolled the dice. The outcome was certainly not what anyone would have liked.
But does a decision, and outcome, like that change the coaches’ mentality moving forward? Does it alter any of their plans without a kicker available?
“I don’t know that it did.” Tomlin said. “You guys that watch us intimately know how we practice. We practice in an aggressive nature with a bunch of situational ball. I don’t think anybody had any level of concern about where we were. I think we had nine 2-point plays on our ready list today because we just have that level of respect for that element of situational ball. We were not less than prepared.”
The Steelers were able to leave the game victorious, but the decision to run the fake now leaves the position of placekicker in doubt. The injury to Boswell will be highlighted heading into next week, and the team could be bringing in a kicker for a workout in case Boswell is unable to play next Monday night at Heinz Field vs. the Chicago Bears. Since the Steelers don’t have a placekicker on the practice squad, it means the team would have to look outside the organization to find kicking help. Fortunately for the Steelers, they have an extra day of preparation before their next game. Maybe that could be the difference between having Boswell available, and not.
Tomlin’s decision will continue to be criticized, but he, and the Steelers, are fortunate the call didn’t come back to haunt the team.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Bears in Week 9 in prime time.