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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Mike Tomlin's fears came true in Denver

By Jamison Hensley

Some of you in Steelers Nation are probably still in shock over Tim Tebow's 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime to Demaryius Thomas, which abruptly ended Pittsburgh' season in a wild-card playoff loss in Denver.

But Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wasn't surprised. He actually predicted that could happen the night before the playoff game, according to CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz.

Demaryius Thomas
Demaryius Thomas' 80-yard catch and run proved Mike Tomlin's fears were justified.
In an interview with the Denver Post, Nantz said Tomlin expressed concern over that exact situation in a production meeting with the Steelers head coach. The subject came up when Nantz asked Tomlin whether he would kick the ball away in overtime if he had won the coin toss considering the playoff rules (where the first possession has to result in a touchdown to end the game).

Instead of kicking the ball to the once-struggling Broncos offense and getting good field position after a stop, Tomlin insisted he would take the ball in overtime. Why?

According to Nantz, Tomlin said: "I’m not putting my whole season at risk giving the other team the football because, if one guy busts an assignment or something else, and one play they go 80 yards and a touchdown and my season is over. I’m not going to let that happen. I’m taking the football."

Nantz responded: "Come on. You gotta be kidding. The longest pass play of the season for the Broncos and Tebow was 56 yards against Kansas City."

According to Nantz, Tomlin said, "I’m not going to put my season on the line for a one-play, 80-yard touchdown pass."

“The next day, overtime, one play, 80-yard touchdown pass," Nantz told the Denver Post. "And that pass, by the way, was absolutely to the inch where it had to be. He threw it, it was a rocket coming in there, hit Thomas in stride and that stiff arm at the 50 and away we go.

“But it was exactly what Mike Tomlin had feared the night before when asked. To the letter. To the letter.

“I’ve never told that story publicly. … The night before he expressed concern about why he would not kick the football if he won the coin toss, because you just never know, you never. A one-play, 80-yard strike and your season’s over and that’s precisely what happened.”

My only question is why didn't Tomlin express this same fear to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau? If you remember, the winning touchdown was scored off a run-stopping formation.

The Steelers had placed safety Ryan Mundy at the line of scrimmage to load the box against the Broncos. When Mundy took a step forward on Tebow's play-action fake, that allowed a clear passing lane to Thomas on a deep slant because cornerback Ike Taylor had played him to the outside. One stiff arm to Taylor, and the rest is NFL playoff history.