- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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PITTSBURGH – Mike Tomlin, who pulled rank on offensive coordinator Todd Haley during a critical juncture last Sunday in a 27-24 loss, said the Steelers didn’t play conservatively when they needed just one first down to close out the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With the Steelers facing a third-and-5 from their own 19-yard line and 1:35 left in the game, Tomlin called a run-pass option. The Steelers ran the ball on the play and Le'Veon Bell was dropped for a 2-yard loss.
The Buccaneers scored the game-winning touchdown two plays after Murphy’s catch and run.
“I felt really good about the play,” Tomlin said of his third-down call, “and particularly in that circumstance, because it was a run-pass option, it gave us an opportunity to be successful regardless of what they did.”
Tomlin said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger opted for the handoff to Bell because the Buccaneers were playing man coverage and did not load up the box to stop the run.
“Essentially we had five-on-five blocking plus the ball carrier, and usually you like those odds,” Tomlin said.
Buccaneers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy blew up the run with penetration and Bell had nowhere to go after reversing course.
Tomlin did not second-guess his call.
“When you lose you’ll always look back at those moments and analyze what you could have done better. I don’t live in my fears in those circumstances,” the eighth-year coach said. “I like to be aggressive. I felt comfortable with that call because it was a run-pass option.
“We didn’t execute the play correctly so whether we ran it or passed it, if you don’t execute it, you’re not going to have an opportunity for success. They executed it in that circumstance and we didn’t.”
Mike Tomlin takes responsibility for pulling rank on a fateful third-down call in the Pittsburgh Steelers' loss to Tampa Bay.