Thought of the Day finale

December, 22, 2009
12/22/09
3:00
PM ET
We received an overwhelming response to our latest "Thought of the Day" regarding Sunday's onside kick call from Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. There were good points supporting both sides of the argument.

Tomlin
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesMike Tomlin's call for an onsides kick on Sunday elicited strong reaction from AFC North blog readers.
Here are some responses from our AFC North inbox, along with a final say on the matter:

Brian from Pittsburgh writes: Tomlin made the right call. He snapped a five-game losing streak by being realistic, not prideful. Aaron Rodgers and their receiving corps are among the most talented in the NFL, and to give that group the ball with a two-point deficit and four minutes on the clock would have been a mistake. What has the defense shown over the past five weeks and into this shootout that leaves anyone with the confidence of a fourth-quarter stop? Tomlin is going to get some flak for this, no doubt, but it's nice to have a coach in town that cares more about winning than pride.

Paul W from Arlington, Va., writes: I can't imagine how Ray Lewis would react to such a decision, or Troy Polamalu for that matter. Tomlin showed ZERO confidence in his D. He obviously read all of the praise Bill Belichick received after the Indianapolis game and figured it was a no-brainer. Tomlin was basically telling his D "If we recover, we win. Otherwise, Green Bay will score on you anyway so let’s shorten the field and allow them to jam the ball down your throat faster. This way the offense will have a chance to win the game."

Big Snack from Indianapolis writes: James, Tomlin made the gutsiest, most fantastic coaching call I've ever seen. He sent the absolutely RIGHT message to his defense. Listen, his explanation was spot on. The Packers weren’t being stopped, they were getting unreal field position regardless of whether we kicked off or onside kicked, and the fact is had Ike Taylor taken one more step it works to perfection.

Jeremy R from Toledo, Ohio, writes: That onside call was the most ridiculous call this season, maybe even worse than Belichick's fourth-and-2 call. Seriously, have all these coaches been playing too much Madden Football? Field-position football at certain junctures may be boring, but there’s a reason why it’s survived so many decades.

Joe Wright from North Hollywood, Calif., writes: I'm a Steeler fanatic, and I love the call. It's great when coaches make bold, unconventional moves to try to win games. Surprise onside kicks have a much better recovery rate than expected onside kicks, and the play was drawn up perfectly. I don't understand why teams don't use them more. For instance, teams complain about not getting the ball in overtime, but they always have the choice to go for onside kicks.

Steve Wills from Ottawa, Ontario, writes: No, it was the wrong play. The right thing to do was to step in and tell [defensive coordinator] Dick LeBeau to stop playing a base defense in the fourth quarter. Green Bay only ran the ball 12 times in the game. Even the Packers' coach seemed surprised at Pittsburgh's defensive strategy in his post-game comments.

James from Charleston, S.C., writes: Mike Tomlin was absolutely right to go for the onside kick. Rodgers was shredding the Pittsburgh secondary, so field position was of little importance. Mason Crosby had struggled kicking to that side of the field. So a field goal after being given good field position was not automatic. Even if Green Bay did score, they would do so more quickly with fewer yards to gain, allowing Ben Roethlisberger a chance to come back and win it with the offense.

Drew from Pittsburgh writes: I'm sure you've received too many comments from Steeler fans claiming greatness on the onside kick called by coach Tomlin with a two-point lead and four minutes on the clock. While it's way outside the norm, it's clear that Tomlin could not bear another loss in the final minutes at the hands of failures on defense. The Steelers’ defense used to be like Mariano Rivera -- almost a guaranteed lock. Now they're like Brad Lidge, where even the coach is afraid to use his closer.

Steve Anderson from Washington, Pa., writes: It was a great call. Ike Taylor needed to execute it better. It was there for the taking. Players have to make plays as one famous coach said. I hate to say this, but our D has not stood for defense in the fourth quarter this year.

Joe Brewer III from Columbia, S.C., writes: I both agree and disagree with Mike Tomlin's call. I agree because, like Tomlin showed, I don't really trust our defense in the fourth quarter, either. But then again, it's not right to just diss your defensive coordinator and the whole defense like that.

AFC North Final Say

James Walker: Based on the responses in our AFC North inbox, it appears about 70 percent of Steeler Nation supported Tomlin's call. But I'm in the minority this week. I think it was a bad move. Many people mentioned the element of surprise and the fourth-quarter defense in support of the call, and those are good points. But the most important aspect is the score. Pittsburgh led by two points at that juncture -- not seven points or even three points. So a field goal can beat you. I'd rather take my chances with 60 yards to stop an opponent from kicking a field goal late as opposed to 10 or 15 yards. I expect most NFL coaches would do the same. But credit goes to Tomlin for trying something unconventional that, in the end, worked for the betterment of his team.

For more on Tomlin's call, here is a great column from Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com. Reiss believes Tomlin should get the same treatment New England Patriots' coach Bill Belichick received after his controversial fourth-and-2 call against the Indianapolis Colts.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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