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Old 12-21-2009, 07:01 AM   #1
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Default Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call

Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...s_658774.html#
By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, December 21, 2009

What the heck was Mike Tomlin thinking when he ordered an onside kick with the Steelers leading 30-28 late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against Green Bay?

Answer: He wasn't thinking. He was coaching from the seat of his pants.

"I was just trying to win a football game," Tomlin said after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger pulled his coach's fat out of the fire with the 19-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to rookie Mike Wallace on the final play of the game.

Without Roethlisberger's and Wallace's heroics being directly responsible for the Steelers' incredible 37-36 victory over the Packers at Heinz Field, Tomlin's approval rating this morning would be lower than Pirates manager John Russell's.

Tomlin would be the object of scorn and ridicule far worse than anything he experienced during the Steelers' five-game losing streak that mercifully ended under the cloak of early-evening darkness.

Some quick-on-the-trigger critics might have initiated a petition for Tomlin to be fired if the Steelers had lost a game they led 24-14 in the third quarter.

Ask Tomlin if he cares what you or I think about his coaching decisions.

"I don't live in my fear," Tomlin said. "I just play to win, and I don't worry about being judged."

If you say so, coach.

Just know this: Tomlin, a defensive coach, didn't trust his defense against Green Bay's potent attack.


He didn't care whose feelings he hurt if it meant siding with his offense over his defense.

Tomlin believed his offense gave the Steelers the best chance to win.

No offense taken, said defensive co-captain James Farrior.

"The way things have been going around here, that wasn't surprising to me," Farrior said of the failed onside kick. "Our defense has been playing bad these last five weeks. We've been giving it up in the fourth quarter, so you've got to try something different."

Tomlin's players said they loved his gambling spirit, the fact that he was willing to risk everything based on a hunch at that particular moment in the game.

"I honestly think it was a great play," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. "It would have been the greatest call by a coach to sneak an onside kick.''

Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley said it reminded him of when New England coach Bill Belichick gambled earlier this season against Indianapolis on fourth-and-short deep in Patriots territory rather than punting.

Belichick's gamble failed when running back Kevin Faulk couldn't hold Tom Brady's pass and Indianapolis took over on downs. Peyton Manning led the Colts to the winning touchdown.

"If we had gotten the ball, it would have been a great call," Woodley said.

In leading his team to victory, Tomlin stole a page from the coaching handbook utilized by his counterparts in Indianapolis and New Orelans.

The Steelers beat Green Bay the way the Colts and Saints are winning this season - by letting their respective offenses do it:

In other words, last team with the ball wins.

"I wanted the ball," Tomlin said. "We hadn't stopped them in the second half, and they hadn't stopped us. I figured if they're working on a short field and they happened to score, we'd have appropriate time to drive down the field, which is kind of how the game unfolded."

There's a fine line between brilliance and stupidity, and Tomlin nearly crossed over to the dark side.


Almost, but not quite.

The Steelers are back in the playoff race - barely - and it looks like Tomlin got his mojo back just in time.

Either that, or he's the luckiest coach in the NFL.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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Old 12-21-2009, 09:01 AM   #2
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Default Re: Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call

I personally thought the onsides kick was a stroke of brilliance. At first I was as baffled as anyone until I realized that a big part of the reason that the Steelers haven't been able to win as of late is time management. An onsides kick would realistically produce one of two results:

1. Them recovering and having the ball again and with the lead and with the chance for them to just put it away.

2. Them losing it and should the Packers actually score, there should be enough time for Ben an company to put it away.

Folks, it made sense. It wasn't boneheaded. It was brilliant.
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Old 12-21-2009, 09:02 AM   #3
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Default Re: Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call

Quote:
Some quick-on-the-trigger critics might have initiated a petition for Tomlin to be fired if the Steelers had lost a game they led 24-14 in the third quarter.


Look around, they already are starting to call for his head.
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Old 12-21-2009, 09:04 AM   #4
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Default Re: Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call

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Originally Posted by AndyWitmyer View Post
I personally thought the onsides kick was a stroke of brilliance. At first I was as baffled as anyone until I realized that a big part of the reason that the Steelers haven't been able to win as of late is time management. An onsides kick would realistically produce one of two results:

1. Them recovering and having the ball again and with the lead and with the chance for them to just put it away.

2. Them losing it and should the Packers actually score, there should be enough time for Ben an company to put it away.

Folks, it made sense. It wasn't boneheaded. It was brilliant.
It was brilliant only because it worked.
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Old 12-21-2009, 09:09 AM   #5
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Default Re: Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call

On the surface, I was like WTF? But when GB moved the ball with ease again, I thought perhaps he did the onside kick so we would still have time left on the clock when they score. If that drive starts on the GB 35, we would not have had 2 minutes left for the game winning drive. So it was an extremely brave move on Tomlin's part...and a message to Gay and the rest of the defense. It's a sad day in Pittsburgh when you would rather have a 6 point deficit and your offense on the field than a 2 point lead with your defense out there to win it. We lost with our defense on the field too many times this year, so Tomlin's like, why not? And it worked.
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Old 12-21-2009, 09:11 AM   #6
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Default Re: Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call

I have to say, if that isn't a wake-up call to the Steelers defense, I don't know what is.
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Old 12-21-2009, 09:18 AM   #7
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Default Re: Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call

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It was brilliant only because it worked.
That is the story of any and all successful strategies in the history of mankind!

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Originally Posted by steelcity1974 View Post
On the surface, I was like WTF? But when GB moved the ball with ease again, I thought perhaps he did the onside kick so we would still have time left on the clock when they score. If that drive starts on the GB 35, we would not have had 2 minutes left for the game winning drive.
Exactly.

The Packers were moving the ball so fluidly. Their offense was scary good. But ours was better.
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Old 12-21-2009, 09:24 AM   #8
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Default Re: Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call

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Originally Posted by Crow-Magnon View Post
I have to say, if that isn't a wake-up call to the Steelers defense, I don't know what is.
I'm not sure that the group we have left can get the job done, wake up call or not. All I can say is that next year. if the Steelers defense comes back whole and healthy and we get a couple of new fresh young studs in the draft, they are going to be playing with a chip on their shoulder. LeBeau has already said that he'll be back.........and no doubt with a vengence. We already know what this defense is capable of and now we know what Ben and his boys are capable of.

I'd be real skeered if I were a Bungle, a Brownie or a Ratbird. Paybacks are a bitch and we B the superbitches.

Is it September yet?
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Old 12-21-2009, 09:26 AM   #9
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Default Re: Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call

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Originally Posted by stillers4me View Post
It was brilliant only because it worked.
First I am not a Tomlin apologist and in essence, you are correct. In defense of Mike, unless one is desperate, the call on a statistical, rational basis is ridiculous. With this said, we were beyond desperate with our backs into the wall.

Again, on a statistical basis, what were the probabilities that we would stop GB without a score? Not a pretty picture is it! I hate the call in 99% of the occasions when a coach would even entertain the thought of using it.

In this particular situation, the unreasonable became the acceptable not from brilliance but from utter desperation. IMHO, there was not a reasonable alternative available and blessedly, we live for another day!
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Old 12-21-2009, 09:37 AM   #10
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Default Re: Harris: Tomlin walks fine line with his call

If the steelers lose that game Tomlin would have been crucified .... and rightfully so. We lose that game after that call and there's a good chance Tomlin him self gets fired. People bring up the onside kick during the SB.....not even comparable. The situations were totally different.

But we still had a chance to make the playoffs. We were winning the game late in the 4th quarter. Tomlin is not winning any support from his players with play calls like that. The team was already on the verge of revolt by the sounds of it.

That play call had Bruce Arians written all over it. This team has been kidnapped by Bruce Arians. We've totally abandoned the run game....we are a finesse team that is completely once dimensional. On top of that our ST's is a complete joke and our pass defense is non existent. A couple injuries did not make all this happen.
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