Some basic deficiencies in simple math cost the Pittsburgh Steelers big time in their 31-29 playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That and a lack of guts late.
The math issue came with 10:25 to go and the Steelers trailing 28-23 after scoring a touchdown. Going for two points would bring the Steelers to within a field goal, so the try for two was defensible. And it looked brilliant when Hines Ward made a tough catch on the play. But a holding call negated the conversion and put the ball back at the 12-yard line instead of the 2. This is where simple math comes in – it is much better to take the sure one point on a kick from such a distance than trying again for two. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, though, went for it again and missed and Pittsburgh would chase that point all game.
Pittsburgh scored again four minutes later to lead 29-28 and had no choice but to go for two again. They failed a second time and those two points were the difference when Jacksonville kicked the winning field goal with 37 seconds left. Had Pittsburgh kicked the extra point from the 12-yard line with 10:25 left, they could have kicked another extra point later instead of trying for two and led 31-28, meaning the late Jaguar field goal would have meant overtime.
After the game Tomlin seemed confused by the whole sequence and kept insisting that the two-point chart all coaches use said to go for two down 28-23. The chart, though, was not assuming the attempt would be tried from 12 yards out. Common sense was lacking on the Steeler sideline.
The lack of guts came with about three minutes to go and Pittsburgh nursing a one-point lead. They faced third-and-6 from their own 30 and tried a lame-ass quarterback run by the elephant-footed Ben Roethlisberger that fell way short. Pittsburgh punted and the Jaguars drove down for the game-winning field goal.
All game, Ward and tight end Heath Miller were killing the Jaguars underneath and a first down would have really put Jacksonville in a hole time-wise and maybe iced the game. Roethlisberger had thrown for 337 yards while the team rushed for only 43, so a pass seemed a no-brainer. Tomlin, though, preferred to "play it safe" and it wound up blowing up in his face.
This is something teams like the Patriots and Colts would never do – they play to win, not to not lose. In a similar situation against the Jags in Week 13, with the Colts up by three and 2:47 left, Peyton Manning threw two passes in his own territory, both completions, and Jacksonville never saw the ball again.
I'll let my brother Paul, a huge Steelers fan, have the last word, via e-mail: "That offensive coordinator should be fired IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!! The ball and a lead with 3 minutes left and they didn't even TRY to make a first down. 3 runs and a punt. Totally chicken shit. That was the game right there. You don't win playoff games by being afraid to win." I love have a smart brother! --Jim Buzinski