clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Steelers butchering the waning moments of Week 15 point to an overall lack of preparation

New, comments

So much has been made of what caused the Steelers to lose Sunday vs. New England. The answer to that may come down to what wasn't discussed in game's final seconds between coaching staff & players

NFL: New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of anger and angst spilling out over who, or what, is to blame for the Pittsburgh Steelers loss on Sunday vs. New England. My thoughts on Ben Roethlisberger making a bad decision to not throw a ball away, instead of opting to throw a near impossible pass to Eli Rogers which was batted into the hands of a Patriots defender, was one take.

And quite unpopular at that!

But as the day unfolded on Monday and Tuesday, my thoughts went in another direction, and I will explore that now. Let’s talk about the time in between the big play to JuJu Smith-Schuster and the touchdown pass to Jesse James that was changed, and the final two plays that were run.

It’s in that time frame where this team showed why it’s not as good as the Patriots, and still play second fiddle to them.

Once the TD was called, it was going to be reviewed by the league, as is the policy now after any score. What has to be known to everyone, from fans, players and most importantly, a coaching staff that’s paid to prepare and make in-game adjustments is that after sixty seconds have elapsed in said review, once you cross that time frame, the chances are very good that the ruling is going to be changed to one of two negative results.

After listening to Mike Tomlin’s press conference Tuesday, it appears, according to Tomlin, the officials told the coaching staff that one scenario included how James would be ruled down at the one-yard line, with a 10-second runoff to the game clock, taking the time down to 18-seconds. In this scenario, the clock would also resume as soon as the ball was set by the official.

The other two scenarios would be either a touchdown or an incomplete pass.

Tomlin and his staff prepared for the 1st option, and used the time in between the ruling of the play to get ready. Tomlin discussed this in his presser saying “It was presented to us by the officials during the review process, that if he gets ruled ‘completed catch, down in bounds’ that was probably the most significant element of the discussion as we approached the last play.”

Tomlin added further “So obviously, 10-second runoff, running clock — that’s the scenario that maintained most of our attention in terms of what could happen as they came out of review. What DID happen when they came out of review obviously was the least of the scenarios from my expectation.”

It’s in that moment the Steelers coaching staff, starting with head coach Mike Tomlin and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley failed.

Once you realize the touchdown is going to be overturned, or at least in two of the three scenarios this could take place, you will be running an additional play, or possibly plays.

As a staff you must be able to figure out a few things:

  1. What is the best play to run in that spot, given time left?
  2. If the play doesn’t go for a touchdown, and ends up in bounds, you must have a second play ready with a package suited for the players on the field of play.
  3. If your play fails via an incomplete pass, you play for the field goal if there isn’t enough time for a second play.

The Steelers were playing for the win, and that’s the right call. It’s the up to Haley to have a set number of plays that can be run, in the time allotted, and a personnel package that compliments it. That has to be communicated to Tomlin and then Ben, then to the players involved.

As the decision was made to overturn the touchdown, it’s at that moment these next two plays should have been discussed and known to all involved, and clearly they were not.

Big problem don’t you think?

Once that ruling came to pass, you now know as a team you have 28-seconds left, you know to use X-Y-Z players at the skill positions and here is the 1st play we run. IF it doesn’t go for a score, and the clock is running, we line up in this formation and run this play.

After the smoke cleared and the officials made their decision, it looks like that did not happen based on Tomlin’s comments.

Given what Roethlisberger said in the post-game, and yesterday on his 93.7 The Fan radio show, after the pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey was stopped in bounds, it was clear that Haley was communicating with Ben to NOT SPIKE THE BALL both during the time waiting on the James no-catch and after the pass to Heyward-Bey. That’s according to Roethlisberger, as he was told to run a play.

And I have a big problem with that given the team was only prepared to run one play.

When the pass to Eli Rogers was run, it was very clear half the team had no idea what was happening. Le’Veon Bell was standing around with his mouthpiece out. Half the offensive line also stood around, along with a large portion of the Patriots’ defense.

The fundamental lack of preparation in that spot is simply unacceptable. Even if the officials are telling you this could happen, in terms of ruling, in a game of this magnitude, with so much on the line, to not have everyone on the same page at the end of the game is inexcusable based on a 2nd scenario that could take place changing plans dramatically.

The lack of thought for another outcome which presents a totally different scenario falls squarely on the shoulders of Tomlin and Haley.

For the team to not all be together on all possible scenarios is stunning, and not acceptable in any way.

And that falls on the shoulders of those who run the show.

Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley failed in this moment. And people wonder why the Steelers can’t slay the dragon that is New England. This is exactly where the difference lies between the two franchises. And until situations like this change, it will end in similar results.

John Phillips is the author of this article and has been writing opinion pieces for BTSC since 2014. Follow JP on Facebook if you can find him.