Ben Roethlisberger in concussion protocol as Steelers botch game late
Two all-too-common occurrences this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger injuries and Mike Tomlin coaching decisions.
On Sunday, the two things intertwined.
The Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, two teams once noted for their vaunted defenses, were embroiled in an offensive shootout Sunday with the Steelers down 32-27 with under four minutes remaining and facing a third-and-goal situation at the Seattle 10-yard line.
Roethlisberger — who threw for 456 yards, the most the Seahawks ever have allowed — scrambled after not being able to find an open receiver. He took it down to the 3-yard line, making it fouth-and-goal with two timeouts left, but taking a big hit from Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright.
Tomlin opted to kick the field goal to make it a 32-30 Seahawks lead with 3:02 left. This is the same coach, mind you, who goes for two-point conversions just for the heck of it. Who went for it twice on fourth down in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens this season with Mike Vick at quaterback.
But with Roethlisberger shredding up the Seahawks, Tomlin opted for the three points. We soon found out part of the reason why he might have balked at going for it on fourth. Roethlisberger would be taken to the locker room under the concussion protocol soon after the Seahawks sealed the game a minute later with an 80-yard TD pass to Doug Baldwin.
Landry Jones replaced Roethlisberger on the Steelers’ final possession and was picked to cap off the Seahawks’ victory.
You can understand a coach feeling iffy about his backup quarterback coming off the bench cold to attempt a fourth-down conversion with the game on the line. But did Tomlin have another choice? It’s not as if he legitimately trusted his defense, which allowed 7.4 yards per play and created zero turnovers in the game, even with no Marshawn Lynch or Jimmy Graham (who suffered a bad-looking knee injury) on the field.
Tomlin is a riverboat gambler who trusts his gut over any coaching cheat sheet. He flies in the face of convention, and it sometimes pays off. The Steelers are a gutsy, dangerous team, reflective of their coach’s personality.
But sometimes he turns meek unexpectedly. it has to be maddening for a team to see its coach change on the fly like this, even with mitigating circumstances dictating the game flow. That’s a situation where kicking the field goal is tantamount to playing to lose, passing up a two-point-conversion-length play to kick a rather meaningless field goal. It makes little coaching sense.
The Steelers lost a game and — again — lost their quarterback to injury. This will be tough for the Steelers to swallow.
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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm