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Steelers’ Mike Tomlin explains the 4th-and-1 play call that led to Kenny Pickett injury

Jonathan Greenard #52 of the Houston Texans sacks Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at NRG Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Steelers HC Mike Tomlin had a lot of questions to answer following the disastrous Week 4 outing against the Houston Texans. Plenty of those questions, of course, were in regard to the team’s playcalling under offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

“What’s your theory of the impact of playcalling on production, and looking at your first month, how do you assess your playcalling?”

“It is a significant component of production, as is player talent and preparedness. You tell me a specific play, and I’ll tell you how those variables weigh out. In any specific instance, those variables weigh out differently, but they’re all significant components. You’ve got to draw up really good stuff, you’ve gotta get good people, you’ve gotta train them, you’ve got to put them in position to be successful. Obviously, we haven’t done enough of that.”

“How about, in specific, the 4th-and-1? Bad call or bad execution?”

“You know, there’s a lot of variables at play, but the bottom line is it wasn’t a good call because It wasn’t productive. But, to be completely transparent with you, we lost a lot of short-yardage personality because of Dan Moore and Pat Freiermuth, we lost all of our big packages, Broderick Jones was already on the field. And so, we probably had to get out of our intended box, if you will, in that circumstance because of lack of player availability at that point in the game,” Tomlin explained.

So... there you have it. There’s the reason for calling a play out of shotgun on 4th-and-1. I repeat... 4th-and-1. Never mind the fact that Freiermuth has spent the 2023 season blocking on a career-low 32.2% of snaps following the arrival of the best blocking tight end in the 2023 NFL Draft class in Pittsburgh. Never mind the fact that LT Dan Moore has been graded as the seventh-worst run blocker among all offensive linemen in the NFL with at least 100+ blocking snaps.

Just... never mind all of that. The standard is the standard.