PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin defended several of his decisions Sunday, including ones to go for it on fourth-and-long late in the game and calling a timeout before that play.
The seventh-year coach also defended wide receiver Antonio Brown, who came within mere inches of saving the Steelers’ season in a 34-28 loss to the Dolphins.
Brown raced into the end zone after a series of laterals on the final play of the game but officials ruled that he stepped out of bounds at the Dolphins’ 12-yard line.
Tomlin acknowledged that the right call was made on Brown stepping out of bounds. But he also dismissed suggestions that Brown should have exhibited better field awareness, saying the snow on the field added to the difficulty of the fourth-year veteran beating the last line of defense and staying in bounds.
“It wasn’t a lack of judgment or anything on Antonio’s part. That’s silly,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “I’ve seen (Brown) skate down many a sidelines over the last three or four years and he’s very good at it. It was a tough surface to play on (because of visibility). That’s part of the equation.”
Tomlin did not second guess himself, as many fans, did for a couple of decisions that he made before Brown’s near touchdown.
The seventh-year coach said he went for it on fourth-and-10 with 2:33 left in the game – the Steelers were trailing 31-28 at the times – because he wanted the ball in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s hands. Tomlin also said he thought the Steelers could hold the Dolphins to a field-goal attempt, which they did after Roethlisberger was stopped short following a mad dash to the first-down marker.
The decision that drew more criticism happened before the fourth-down play. The Steelers called a timeout even though the clock had been stopped by an incomplete pass.
Had the Steelers not called timeout they would have had two left plus the two-minute warning.
Tomlin said he called timeout because some of the receivers were slow getting back to the line of scrimmage since they didn’t know if the Steelers were going to punt on fourth down. He added that he did not want to rush the play.
“When I think the utilization of a timeout gives us an opportunity to win a significant down I’ll use it," Tomlin said. "I thought we had a clean opportunity to win the fourth-and-10. We didn’t do it. There’s ramifications obviously that comes with that and questioning the mentality comes with that. That’s something that we accept.”
Tomlin also didn't second guess the play at the end of the first half.
Troy Polamalu caught a field goal attempt that came up short and brought it out of the end zone, per instructions from Tomlin.
That play also produced laterals but no touchdown as Ike Taylor was tackled at the Dolphins’ 41-yard line. Had Polamalu not returned the field-goal attempt the Steelers would have gotten the ball at their 42-yard line with around 17 seconds left in the second quarter and three timeouts.
“I had no problem with what we attempted to do on that play,” Tomlin said. “That structure is one of the purest scoring opportunities in football because you’ve got non-runners and non-tacklers on field-goal units.
“When given an opportunity to search for a splash play like that we’ll be aggressive, particularly at the end of the half. We were extremely close to getting seven. We were an ankle tackle away from some open grass and a probable touchdown. Probably given the opportunity to do it again I’ll put the ball in (Polamalu’s) hands.”