Did Steelers squander their chance to plan for the final snaps?

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The final snaps of the Patriots-Steelers game created plenty of fodder for analysis, criticism, and discussion. Here’s a theory that hasn’t gotten nearly enough play.

It came from Chris Simms on Monday’s PFT Live, and it was by far the best point he’s made since joining the show. (And, yes, the bar was low.) During the free timeout that came during the replay review of the Jesse James touchdown that wasn’t, what did the Steelers do to plan for the remaining plays from scrimmage?

A full three minutes and 20 seconds elapsed from the moment James supposedly scored to the moment Tony Corrente explained that the ruling on the field had been overturned. That’s more than enough time for the offense to huddle and to discuss in clear, certain terms what would happen if, for example, the second-down play resulted in the clock ticking after a tackle.

But despite having a full 200 of those ticks to make and to communicate decisions to all of the 11 players on offense, the Steelers seems rattled and uncertain as they lined up for what appeared to be a spike. (The Patriots, on the other hand, were organized, communicating, and prepared.)

At the snap, the only receiver who ran a pattern was Eli Rogers, from the far right of the formation; the other receivers looked tentative and unsure. And Roethlisberger, who claimed after the game that it wasn’t a fake spike, executed a fake spike when he got the snap, pumped again into the ground an instant later, and then threw the ball to Rogers, who had run a slant. Into triple coverage.

Maybe the plan that was devised in the three minutes and 20 seconds on the sideline was to feign confusion in the hopes of confusing the Patriots. If that was the case, it didn’t work. The Patriots (who surely took full advantage of the full three minutes and 20 seconds to plan for everything — including a reprise of the fake spike that the Steelers used against the Cowboys a year earlier) were ready for it.

The Steelers, by all appearances, weren’t ready. They weren’t ready to deal with a ticking clock after second down. They weren’t ready with a plan that had been communicated to everyone. They simply weren’t ready. While the responsibility for being ready ultimately belongs to the head coach, the commitment to situational football that oozes from the Patriots would have, if shared by the Steelers, had Roethlisberger and/or offensive coordinator Todd Haley calling everyone together and using every available second to know exactly what would happen and how it would happen — on second down, third down, and fourth down.

Even though great players make a great team, great coaches periodically make the difference between winning and losing. On Sunday, the failure of the Steelers to use that 200 seconds to come up with their best possible plan for dealing with the final seconds of the game shows that their coaching wasn’t as great as it could have or should have been, especially when going against one of the greatest coaches of all time, in any sport.

57 responses to “Did Steelers squander their chance to plan for the final snaps?

  1. And every one will set about the call , you should be crying about that defense letting Brady go 80 yards in 70 seconds for the game winning TD.

  2. The Steelers shouldn’t have wasted their first timeout of the 2nd half with 11 minutes left in the game. Why don’t coaches just watch the end of Super Bowl XLIX and learn? Don’t waste timeouts, don’t throw slants near the goal line.

  3. ‘While the responsibility for being ready ultimately belongs to the head coach, the commitment to situational football that oozes from the Patriots would have, if shared by the Steelers…’ represented a serious departure from their norm and guaranteed overtime at the very least.

    Belichick’s teams don’t look confused often (the wildcat game against Miami a few years ago being a rare exception) but when playing against them Tomlin’s teams often do. Objectively the Steelers probably have the overall edge in talent in their starters vs New England’s but there is just no comparison in coaching and depth.

  4. I don’t mind that they used the “go to ground” rule to overturn James’s TD. I mind that they overturned James’s TD but didn’t overturn Brandon Cooks’s TD in week 3 against Houston, when he did the same thing.

    Cooks was clearly losing his grip on the ball when he went to the ground, then upon impact the ball shifted in his arm. But they let him keep his TD anyway and New England won the game. This is a another fine example of the Patriots getting away with something other teams don’t.

  5. Remember, this is the same qb and coach that got tebowed out of the playoffs, nuff said,

  6. The play before that is what cost the Steelers the game not the last fluke ricochet pass. Most people unless you live in New England realize Jesse James td was a td and was negated by another NFL stupid rule. James caught it made a move and was over the goal line. Should have been td and game over. End of story! Ready to move on to the next week.

  7. Except the play following the review was not the fake spike, but a throw to the flat that got stopped before the receiver got to the sideline. Having no timeouts, the Steelers had to line up and make a quick decision. The decision to throw a pass in a pattern that didn’t either go to the end zone or nearer to the sideline was their real failure, and caused them to scramble to the line to spike it or run a last ditch play for the win. The spike would have brought up 4th down, and that would have caused them to have to kick, but they opted to run a play with poor execution. In hindsight, maybe they’d save that 3rd quarter timeout due to poor clock management, but they did not. In the end, the Patriots ended up winning, and regardless of whether it shoulda happened or something else coulda happened, they deserved it in the end.

  8. steelcurtainn says:
    December 18, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    The play before that is what cost the Steelers the game not the last fluke ricochet pass.
    _____________________________________________

    Uh, most people unless they are Steelers apologists realize they still had a chance to win that game or at least take it into OT after the no TD call had they not turned it over.

  9. Steelers fan. And yep. They’ve consistently been embarrassed by belichick. I think Tomlin is a good coach, but he’s not a great one either

  10. More proof that Ben has been carrying that team for years, and the coaches are the problem. Ben would have 4 rings with better coaches.

  11. That play was never going to work in 100 years.

    Before the Patriots scored their game winning TD the Steelers had the ball with 3 minutes left and only need a few first downs to run out the clock. Instead they went 3 and out. Maybe when it’s 3rd down and 4 you should throw the freaking ball at least 4 yards.

  12. Look I was rooting for the Steelers. But they got totally outcoached. The idea of running a fake spike against the Pats is ridiculous anyway. As for Pittsburgh coaching, the playcalling on the 2 drives before the Pats’ scores was very conservative for only being up 8. The way they repeatedly left Sean Davis alone on Gronk on the last drive was absurd. And as you point out, the lack of planning was negligent. As in, “If they overturn it, we are going to run this play. If we get tackled in bounds, tell everyone we immediately go to this play.” I mean, come on. These guys are getting paid millions. This isn’t rocket science (though if it were, with Matt Patricia as Pats DC, they would win anyway).

  13. collectordude says:
    December 18, 2017 at 7:28 pm
    Maybe it’s time to change the head coach.
    Can’t seem to ever beat the patriots.
    ————————————————-
    But he is doing a bang up job against the AFC North and the rest of the league. I think the Steelers will keep him for a while longer.

  14. Uh, most people unless they are Steelers apologists realize they still had a chance to win that game or at least take it into OT after the no TD call had they not turned it over.

    Uh, most people who aren’t trite Patriot commenters would realize that the Steelers got hosed…..period and we should be discussing any plays beyond the horrible call.

  15. Tomlin has most likely cost the Squealers organization at least two Super Bowls – beyond over rated! He’s good at tripping players though I’ll give him that!

  16. Well said. I came away from that game thinking that the Steelers were actually the better team but they got completely outcoached. They kept throwing to Gronk and the Steelers didn’t adjust. Then the goal to goal fiasco when the Steelers still had 2 more cracks at the end zone but ended up shooting themselves in the foot. The worst part for the Steelers is that they are the team that now has to deal with Jacksonville. The Jags aren’t going to be an easy out.

  17. baronvonheil says:
    December 18, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    We did beat the Patriots, and the Pats know it. We’ll beat you and the Refs if we have to next time.
    ————————————————————————————-

    Everyone that was watching saw the no call on the flagrant offensive pass interference where Martavis Bryant’s “touchdown” handed the Steelers the undeserved 17-10 lead going into halftime. Must be a new rule that allows players to push off as long as they keep pushing during the entire play while only using one hand the make the catch.

  18. Tomlin is terrible.

    The one single reason why Shazier is in a wheelchair is the inability or lack of willingness of the Pittsburgh management to coach these guys to NOT tackle with your head.

  19. After catching the ball, James did not stay upright long enough to establish hinself as a runner, therefore ‘going to the ground’ rules apply. To acore by breaking the plane, the player has to be an established runner, which James was not.

  20. Everyone that was watching saw the no call on the flagrant offensive pass interference where Martavis Bryant’s “touchdown” handed the Steelers the undeserved 17-10 lead going into halftime. Must be a new rule that allows players to push off as long as they keep pushing during the entire play while only using one hand the make the catch.

    Alternative facts is at it again. Why did he have to make one handed catch? Because his other hand was being restrained by the Cheetahs defender…..pretty simple even for a trite Liar .

  21. Mike Tomlin is basically just a cheerleader. His coordinators handle all the coaching and play calling and strategys. Most of the time I see him watching the big screen just like the fans. He is good at cheating and planting his foot in the field of play to try and trip an opponent’s player. The strength of the Steelers is their outstanding drafting and evaluation of talent.

  22. Rule 2, Article 7, Note 1: A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball (with or without contact by an opponent) must maintain control of the ball until after his contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, there is no possession. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, it is a catch, interception, or recovery. A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner.

  23. 345snarkavenue says:
    December 18, 2017 at 8:39 pm
    Rule 2, Article 7, Note 1: A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball (with or without contact by an opponent) must maintain control of the ball until after his contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, there is no possession. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, it is a catch, interception, or recovery. A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner.

    ———————————————————————————–
    That means that officials who get paid to know that rules, actually know the rules better than a bunch of biased fans who wanted a different team to win.

  24. By what i am reading the Steeler fans are upset because they have to play by the same rules as everyone else does.
    The truth is Tomlin is not a real head coach, the Rooney rule got him the job.
    He always chokes under pressure, his offensive coordinator is a hot head and his QB is sick and tired of them both.
    Tomlin is obsessed with BB just like Wrecks Ryan was.

  25. That means that officials who get paid to know that rules, actually know the rules better than a bunch of biased fans who wanted a different team to win.

    ——–

    Exactly. They wanted the officials to call it a catch despite the rules indicating otherwise.

  26. At least 20 teams, if not more, would love to have Tomlin as their coach. Clock management aside, no one but Belicheck gets more from his players than Mike Tomlin.

    I hate the Steelers, but respect how hard they play, and Tomlin is why they play the way they do.

  27. Nofoolnodrool says:
    December 18, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Alternative facts is at it again. Why did he have to make one handed catch? Because his other hand was being restrained by the Cheetahs defender…..pretty simple even for a trite Liar .
    —————————————————————————
    Sorry…my bad…I should have said…Everyone that was watching the game on a television manufactured any time after 1974…..saw the no call on the flagrant OPI….

  28. 345snarkavenue says:
    December 18, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    Ha…..i got down votes for posting a comment that is entirely, word for word, quoted from the rule book.

    ——————————————————————————–
    The same dimwits believe probably that a patriots equipment guy uses Santa’s sleigh every day except xmas to travel around the world letting air out of people’s tires wherever and wherever the weather changes to being cold.

  29. The same dimwits believe probably that a patriots equipment guy uses Santa’s sleigh every day except xmas to travel around the world letting air out of people’s tires wherever and wherever the weather changes to being cold.

    ——

    And on xmas when santa is using the sleigh, the equipment guy gets a ride with bigfoot and elvis in Belichick’s UFO

  30. Tomlin looked stunned during the postgame interview. He wasn’t emotionally drained. He was visibly in shock.

  31. Someone here complained about the Cooks game winner against Houston in comparison to the James drop.

    Here’s the difference. Cooks made a football move tapping both feet in bounds. James had completed no football moves. He caught the ball in the air and dropped the ball when he went to ground.

    As to the Steelers botching up the end of the game. that’s all on the coaching and not preparing Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers coaching staff is good, but they botched the end of that game.

  32. one of the greatest coaches of all time? one of? belichick isn’t one of anything, he is hands down the GOAT coach and GM. time after time the guy wins big games in the most clutch situations. can you imagine if he coached pittsburgh’s talent for a season? he’d crush everyone. belichick doesn’t always win but by god you better bring your A game and that won’t be enough if your coach screws up in a critical situation.

  33. steelcurtainn says:
    December 18, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    The play before that is what cost the Steelers the game not the last fluke ricochet pass. Most people unless you live in New England realize Jesse James td was a td and was negated by another NFL stupid rule. James caught it made a move and was over the goal line. Should have been td and game over. End of story.
    ————————————————————————————————————————–
    Game over? If the James TD stood the Steelers would have been up by 3 or 4 with 30 seconds to play kicking off to NE. You think the Steelers were going to stop them? I say Brady would have gone down the field again scored the winning TD and destroyed that overrated Pitt D. End of story.

    See? We can both make up imaginary endings that didn’t happen.

  34. baronvonheil says:
    December 18, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    We did beat the Patriots, and the Pats know it. We’ll beat you and the Refs if we have to next time.
    ——————————————————————————————————————-
    Congratulations on your imaginary victory! Also, good job winning that imaginary SB last year, after your imaginary win in the AFC title game in which the Pittsburgh D clamped down on NE’s offense and held them to only 36 points in a game where Gronkowski was out injured.

  35. 345snarkavenue says:
    December 18, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    Ha…..i got down votes for posting a comment that is entirely, word for word, quoted from the rule book.
    ———————————————————————————————————————-
    Steeler fans aren’t interested in knowing the rule book, or in understanding why the play was called as it was. They just want to whine about getting “hosed”.

  36. Mike Tomlin is basically a cheerleader. He’s a terrible coach. Yada yada yada.

    In 10 years, Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season. Mike Tomlin is only the third coach in NFL history to finish with a .500 or better record in his first 10 seasons with one team. The other two–John Madden and Curly Lambeau–are in the Hall. Mike Tomlin is the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl, and no, he didn’t win a Super Bowl because he had Cowher’s players. It took Bill Cowher nearly 15 years to win a Super Bowl. Mike Tomlin has a brilliant defensive mind, and is a creative thinker. He took out extra time during practice for SBXLIII to drill his defense on running interference for players bringing back turnovers. Watch Harrison’s pick six and see if those practice drills had any impact on the game. The reason so many people underrate Mike Tomlin doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of his coaching. It’s sad, but it is what it is. Meanwhile, the team failed to prepare for the next play after the James play because they didn’t in a million years think that TD would be overturned. Again, it is what it is.

  37. Nofoolnodrool says:
    December 18, 2017 at 7:54 pm
    Uh, most people unless they are Steelers apologists realize they still had a chance to win that game or at least take it into OT after the no TD call had they not turned it over.

    Uh, most people who aren’t trite Patriot commenters would realize that the Steelers got hosed…..period and we should be discussing any plays beyond the horrible call.

    Interesting how your football acumen fades away when the steelers are involved. Nantz and Romo both went out on the limb calling at a TD. Then, because they are not steeler fanboys, realized they were wrong and admitted it wasn’t a catch.
    Are you ok with the cooks pass being called illegal touch when he was pushed out by a steeler? Stupid rule, right? If that pass stands steelers aren’t as close and NE wins anyway.

  38. Steelers are clearly in panic mode. When Sad Ben throws picks in the end zone, you know they’re ripe for one and done. The team has been accumulating season ending injuries at a frantic pace. Expect more casualties in Houston. They may even lose to the Browns who will be throwing caution to the wind to avoid a winless season.

  39. takeyourpunishmentandquitwhininglikeababy says:
    Steelers are clearly in panic mode.

    Yeah I was thoroughly impressed by the Patriots secondary giving up a 69 yd gain on a slant. If you don’t think the Pats aren’t ripe for a setback (or are they injury-free too??) you may want to re-think your Pats-have-kevlar mentality.

  40. realpatsfan says:
    December 18, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    By what i am reading the Steeler fans are upset because they have to play by the same rules as everyone else does.
    ———-

    You mean like how Brandon Cooks got to keep his TD in week three against Houston, but both James and the Jets player earlier this season both had theirs overturned? Using the same exact rule? Doesn’t seem like everybody had to play by the same rules.

    And for every Patriots fan whining about Bryant’s TD, are you kidding? Why don’t you look at YOUR guy who was clutching onto Bryant’s hand the whole time?

  41. Deb says:

    December 19, 2017 at 12:07 am
    In 10 years, Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season. Mike Tomlin is only the third coach in NFL history to finish with a .500 or better record in his first 10 seasons with one team. The other two–John Madden and Curly Lambeau–are in the Hall.

    I think you forgot about a guy on the East Coast, who in his first 10 years with a team not only was better than .500 but had three superbowl victories

  42. Again, Patriots fans getting all preachy with this “it’s the rule, deal with it” need to explain how they got away with keeping their TD when in week three vs. Houston, when Brandon Cooks clearly was juggling the ball as it hit the ground. What a joke. Once again there’s one set of rules for the Patriots, and one for the rest of the league.

  43. Wow the Steelers whiner towels are flapping.
    Game over, move on.
    Tomlin inherited a winner through the Rooney rule that had to be used in the steel city.
    Affirmative action is great.

  44. provpats says:
    December 19, 2017 at 9:58 am
    Deb says:

    December 19, 2017 at 12:07 am
    In 10 years, Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season. Mike Tomlin is only the third coach in NFL history to finish with a .500 or better record in his first 10 seasons with one team. The other two–John Madden and Curly Lambeau–are in the Hall.

    I think you forgot about a guy on the East Coast, who in his first 10 years with a team not only was better than .500 but had three superbowl victories

    ———————————————————————————————————–

    No, I didn’t. The NFL lists Tomlin as one of only THREE coaches who in his first 10 years with a single team was better than .500. Bill Belichick was head coach of the Browns before he coached the Patriots, which is why he is not part of that record. Apparently you’re not familiar with Belichick’s coaching history. I was addressing the ridiculous racist criticism of Mike Tomlin, not disrespecting Bill Belichick. It’s not all about you.

  45. Deb says:

    December 19, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    provpats says:
    December 19, 2017 at 9:58 am
    Deb says:

    December 19, 2017 at 12:07 am
    In 10 years, Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season. Mike Tomlin is only the third coach in NFL history to finish with a .500 or better record in his first 10 seasons with one team. The other two–John Madden and Curly Lambeau–are in the Hall.

    I think you forgot about a guy on the East Coast, who in his first 10 years with a team not only was better than .500 but had three superbowl victories

    ———————————————————————————————————–

    No, I didn’t. The NFL lists Tomlin as one of only THREE coaches who in his first 10 years with a single team was better than .500. Bill Belichick was head coach of the Browns before he coached the Patriots, which is why he is not part of that record. Apparently you’re not familiar with Belichick’s coaching history. I was addressing the ridiculous racist criticism of Mike Tomlin, not disrespecting Bill Belichick. It’s not all about you.

    It actually is all about me; I am certainly aware of BB’s history in CLE. You refer to the first ten years with a team NOT the first ten years of a head coaching career. I suggest you may want to sharpen your writing skills to say what is really said in the record book

    And I would not want to criticize Tomlin and be accused of being a racist even though he has a significant losing record (2-7) against the preeminent team of his coaching tenure.

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