Let's get this out of the way up front:
Yes, if Josh Scobee makes either field goal in regular time, the Steelers win. It's that simple. And Scobee missed two crucial field goals in the game against the New England Patriots, and even an extra point in the game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Yes, if Antonio Brown makes the catch in the end zone late in the game, the Steelers win. It's that simple.
But what's also simple to understand is that players mess up. The Steelers' offense needed to step up its game to support a rusty, recently signed Mike Vick, and for the most part they did. The defense needed to step up its game against a Super Bowl MVP quarterback in Joe Flacco and for the most part they did.
Plays failed, Brown dropped that touchdown pass that he usually makes because that's what a player of Brown's caliber sometimes does; he's human.
But neither Brown nor even Scobee deserves to be blamed for this loss. That falls squarely on Mike Tomlin.
The Steelers Head Coach lost this game for the team by violating a very basic tenet of coaching: Never set your team up to fail. Never.
Here are the two key plays of the game that, in my mind, best illustrate how Tomlin's lack of mastery of coaching strategy is hurting the Steelers and set them up to fail in this game, not once, but twice:
12:37 left in Overtime, the Steelers facing 4th-and-2 at Baltimore's 39-yard line. Tomlin elects to go for it, and that's what doomed the Steelers.
9:45 left in Overtime, the Steelers facing 4th-and-1 at Baltimore's 33-yard line. Tomlin elects to go for it, and that's what doomed the Steelers.
Yes, Scobee proved to be unreliable on this night, but so did the Steelers' offense. Trickery can only get you so far; if in the first OT fourth down go-for-it situation Tomlin was thinking "...the Ravens are thinking handoff to Bell...let's have Vick bootleg it," then he was sadly mistaken. The Ravens were waiting for Vick.
In the second OT fourth down go-for-it situation, Tomlin was thinking "...let's get it to Brown", then under normal circumstances you might say that was the obvious choice. Except Brown already had dropped a TD pass in the end zone and, for the night, Brown was held to five catches for 42 yards; not a high-percentage play after all, at least not this night.
So, what was Tomlin to do you ask? How about punt?
Think about it. The Steelers' punter Jordan Berry wasn't having a great night, having pooched three punts under forty yards (39, 38 and 32 yards)....but that's all the distance they needed in OT!
Tomlin forgot all about a key facet of the game: field position. Had he punted on their first possession of OT, at worst the Ravens would have gotten the ball on their 20-yard line instead of their 39-yard line.
Had he punted on their second (and last) possession of OT, at worst the Ravens would have gotten the ball on their 20-ard line instead of their 33-yard line. This one was the killer. Remember, there was 9:45 left in OT. Had the Ravens been pushed back 13 more yards and, given their production of 4.2 yards per play in this series of plays, and given the way the defense had been playing (one play for negative yards, one for zero yards, two for three yards), there would have been more opportunities for the Steelers defense to make something happen; more space with which defensive head coach Keith Butler could have used to either blitz Flacco yet again in an attempt to force an errant throw or something--anything--that would have forced the Ravens to react to the Steelers' controlling the field rather than the Ravens.
Somebody, maybe GM Kevin Colbert, "Mean" Joe Greene or Dan Rooney himself needs to pull Mike Tomlin aside and tell him that it's time to stop "going with his gut" - I cringed when I heard the announcer report this is what Tomlin told them in their interviews leading up to the game.
Someone, please, anyone, needs to shake this "I'm smarter than you" smirky attitude Tomlin exhibits and make him stop managing like a whiz-kid gambler and start thinking strategically like the best coaches...dare I say, like maybe Bill Belichick, Chuck Noll, or other head coaches who studied the nuances of the game, understood real football strategy, and were rarely gutted by their own tactics.