Tomlin defends decision to trust his defense after winning overtime coin toss

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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made an unusual decision on Sunday: When the game went to overtime, Pittsburgh won the coin toss and Tomlin did not choose to receive the kickoff.

Instead, the Steelers chose to have the wind at their backs, meaning they kicked off and gave the Ravens the ball first. The risk, of course, was that the Ravens would march down the field, score a touchdown and win the game without the Steelers ever getting the ball.

The Steelers did lose, but not that way: They forced the Ravens to punt on the opening possession of overtime, but then Pittsburgh lost a fumble and set up Baltimore’s game-winning field goal.

Despite losing the game, Tomlin said afterward that he made the right choice, given that the Steelers were struggling with kickoff returns all game.

“We couldn’t get back to the 15, why would I sign up for that?” Tomlin said. “I put the defense on the field in an effort to fight for field position and put the onus on them to get the stop. When we got the ball, we got it on the 30-something, which is dramatically different than when our kickoff return team took the field all afternoon.”

Pittsburgh did get the ball at the 32-yard line on its overtime possession, and with the wind at their backs, the Steelers didn’t need to go far to get into field goal range. If not for that fumble, Tomlin might have looked smart. But because the Steelers did fumble, and because Ravens kicker Justin Tucker made the game-winning field goal into the wind, Tomlin has taken some criticism this week.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, however, said he understood exactly what Tomlin was doing.

“Give Tomlin a lot of credit, he knows this place better than anyone,” Harbaugh said. “I think we probably know it the second best because we play here so much. For our kicker to be able to make that kick in the end with the wind blowing says something about him.”

It worked out for Harbaugh and didn’t work out for Tomlin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Tomlin made the wrong decision.

49 responses to “Tomlin defends decision to trust his defense after winning overtime coin toss

  1. They got the stop they needed. And if JuJu doesn’t fumble, they were another 30 or so yards away from a game-winning field goal. BAL couldn’t move the ball.

  2. As a Detroit Lions fan, “taking the wind” is an infamous phrase by Marty Mornhinwig when he made the same decision with the same result. Too cute and clever by a mile. He was fired at the end of that season.

  3. Steelers fan, yes Tomlin has made some notorious bone-headed coaching decisions, but this wasn’t one of them. His decision set up our offense perfectly. The reason we lost this game was simply Juju’s fumble. Less Fortnite, less partying, less social media camera crews.

  4. Not sure why he has to defend this. With his QB situation it makes sense to have more trust in the defense and make the win condition less challenging for yourself. They got the stop they needed, so his decision isn’t why they lost.

  5. Harbaugh and Tomlin are two good coaches that over stayed their welcome and need to move on. The Ravens, Steelers game was always a prime time matchup. Now it doesn’t raise an eyebrow.

  6. Why would he need to defend it? They got the stop. This isn’t hindsight either, he had a 3rd stringer leading his offense and his D was the best unit on the field that Sunday. JuJu fumbling changes none of that.

  7. He was probably hoping the Ravens would score a TD and put this game out of its misery.

  8. Don’t really think it’s a negative for a coach to believe in his defensive players enough to put them out there first in OT, they got the stop and the ball back for their offense. They would have just been able to win the game on a FG if they hadn’t fumbled.

  9. Between Juju and James Conner the Steelers have a #1 WR and #1 RB that have cost the team 4 wins the last 2 seasons with fumbles in the last few minutes of games.

  10. Tomlin’s a good coach, and he made the right call. Pinned the Ravens deep and defense got them off of the field with a 3 and out. As for him and Harbaugh, I have them both in the 5 – 7 range as far as the best NFL head coaches are concerned. If either one of them ever got fired, their phone would ring in a nano second.

  11. Tomlin is a joke but he called that right. Without the refs handing them 2 fake INTs and several phantom flags, Ravens would have blown them out.

  12. When Tomlin won the toss and choose to play defense i think that was more an indictment on that Ravens Offense than anything else.Lamar jackson in that game was 19/28 161 yds 1td and 3 int. Tomlin knew at worse what they are going to give up a field goal.

  13. originalsteelcurtain says:
    October 9, 2019 at 7:50 pm
    Tomlin has made many bad in-game decisions, (his challenge record is laughable) bit this one made sense given the circumstances.


    Yes, it’s not great, but let’s not forget that Al Riveron has been in charge of replay reviews for the past three years, and he seems to decide replays on a coin flip.

  14. dynastyfootballforme says:
    October 9, 2019 at 8:40 pm
    Yeah, Juju fumbled and lost it for them, but just think of the outrage if the Ravens scored an opening drive TD.

    Tomlin would be out of a job if they lost again this coming Sunday.


    I still think Tomlin shouldn’t have to defend this even if Baltimore would’ve scored right away. Given their situation at QB, this would’ve been the better option.

  15. What’s the big deal? He actually gambled correctly as they forced a punt. Give him kudos as the game lasted longer than what it probably would have if they took the ball first and fumbled it away.

  16. When you have 20 and the dealer is showing a 6, the right decision int that moment is to stay. That doesnt change just because the dealer ends up drawing a 21.

    You can make the right decision based on the odds and still lose.

  17. Tomlin kicked off because he was hoping the kickoff return would come towards the Steelers’ sideline allowing Tomlin a chance to trip the return guy

  18. He made the correct call as he was using inexperienced third string qb and defense was at that point playing well. But why would he throw his specialty teams under the bus. Also, why would he assume that a touchback out to the 25 was out of the playbook.

    Dude, just say that seemed to be the right call and he wouldn’t hesitate to make the same call in the same situation in the future. And say nothing else!

  19. So a touchback puts the ball on the 25 yard line.
    After Baltimore punted the ball was on the 32 yard line.

    Net gain 7 yards. That’s a HUGE difference.
    Glad he gave up the extra offensive possession.

    How long will this guy skate on idiotic decisions.

  20. There may be some validity to his point, and they did get the stop. But, with OT now just 10 minutes, I feel like it is a mistake to give away any possessions. If you get the ball first, you might see it twice (if no one wins before that). But, if you get the ball second, you may not get a second possession, if the game goes that far, with only 10 minutes on the clock.

  21. Ravens fan here. I think this was one of the better decisions I have seen Tomlin make in all of his games against the Ravens. And oh, by the way, it actually worked but for the turnover. I don’t understand why he has to defend this decision at all.

  22. JuJu Smith-Fumble lost that game, just like he fumbled away the entire season last year. But oh…he broke down when Rudolph got knocked out so he’s wonderful.

  23. That was a perfectly reasoned decision given the circumstances. He was down to his 3rd string QB. Does anybody really think they were going to drive 80 yards if they took the ball first? Far more likely they’d have went 3 and out and given the Ravens great field position. Much smarter to bank on your defense and hopefully get decent field position after the stop.

  24. He lost a possession and gained 7 yards out of the decision. They started on the 32 yard line vs. the 25 (touchback)
    If the Ravens go down and score a TD the game is over and the Steelers never see the ball after WINNING the toss.


  25. Anyone that questions that move is an idiot. Its not real overtime anyway. And his QB was some no name. Shut up Monday morning QBs.

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