With the steam this story is building, perhaps we should re-name it "OptionGate."
Its lameness is on about the same level.
The extent to which one play can be picked apart anywhere from two to five days after a game isn't anything new. The certainty of success of a Ben Roethlisberger pass as opposed to a clock-killing run takes on a life of its own after a loss, exactly like the Steelers' now-infamous, third-and-5 playcall has done since their Week 4 loss to Tampa Bay.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after the game Roethlisberger had a run/pass option on the play, a critical snap with the Steelers leading 24-20 with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay was out of timeouts, and a first down would have ended the game. A play in-bounds but short of the first down would have kept the clock moving but would also have given the Buccaneers the ball back with a chance to win the game.
Roethlisberger looked over the line of scrimmage, didn't like what he saw, and went to the run option. But how much of a run option did he really have? It's a matter of whose perspective you're considering.
"The line was run-blocking all the way, so it’s not like you can drop back and throw a pass," Roethlisberger said, as quoted by ESPN's Scott Brown. "If you want to call that a run-pass option, I guess it is. But it’s pretty much a run, and we have to believe that we can get that when it’s called."
Tomlin may have thrown Roethlisberger under the bus a little bit, and Roethlisberger responded by dragging his coach down a little bit as well. Fair's fair. It was, like Ben said, pretty much a run. Does that mean it was the wrong play? The Buccaneers had five sacks in the game, and had the flats and middle of the field crawling with white jerseys, all but daring the Steelers to try a deep throw. An incompletion would give them more time after a punt and would open up the opportunity for another sack. The Bucs had set up their first touchdown on a sack and forced fumble on the third play of the game.
A run likely wouldn't go anywhere either, considering the back wouldn't dare approach the sideline since a cardinal rule in that situation is not to go out of bounds.
All of this is being passed around while largely ignoring the fact the drive was pushed back five yards due to a penalty on center Maurkice Pouncey. Bracketing the other side of the miscue-filled drive was the worst punt of the year at the worst possible time for Brad Wing, giving Tampa Bay the ball in excellent field position.
The Buccaneers scored. We'll never know if a pass would have been completed, even as low-percentage of one it appeared to be, considering the personnel both teams had on the field and how they were lined up. It's over now but the debate will never end it seems. The only remedy is not to put the team in another situation requiring a game-clinching first down late in the fourth quarter when the Steelers take on Jacksonville in Week 5.