Mike Tomlin and Coaching Staff's Gaffes Cost Pittsburgh Steelers the Game

Andre Khatchaturian@AndreKhatchCorrespondent IIIJanuary 8, 2012

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08:  Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

First of all, congratulations to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. They played a great game and they earned their victory over an injury-depleted Pittsburgh Steeler team in overtime. 

Tebow has never looked this sharp. He threw some tight spirals throughout the game during big moments, and he delivered with an epic 80-yard touchdown to win the game and advance to New England.

That being said, Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff made a terrible unnoticed blunder late in the fourth quarter that probably cost the Steelers the game.

With 29 seconds to go, the Steelers had the ball on Denver's 45 with a timeout. They were approaching field goal range. From that distance, it would've been a 62-yard field goal. 

The No. 1 rule for a team that is on the edge of field goal range is to at least maintain their field position. That means don't pass the ball, especially if you have an immobile quarterback with an injured leg that is notorious for getting sacked throughout his career.

Whoever on the coaching staff called a passing play on the following down truly needs to give an explanation. The Steelers running game was perfectly fine, and they could've ran the ball. Back-up running back Isaac Redman had 121 yards. Running with him to try to get closer would've been the safer and smarter play.

After a running play, they could've then called a timeout to set up a field goal for Shaun Suisham.  

In the thin Denver air, a 55-yard field goal would've been very possible. 

Instead, they decide to pass, and Ben Roethlisberger fumbles the ball and nearly gives the game away to the Broncos at that instant. They were well beyond field goal range now and had no timeouts.

All of a sudden, what seemed like a sure win was now a momentum building moment for the Broncos defense, who ended up shutting down Roethlisberger to force overtime.

The rest, as they say, is history. 

The Broncos did a lot of things right in exposing the Steelers defense on Sunday. Dick LeBeau apparently had experience coaching against the option, but the Broncos made his defense look like a college team at times.

Granted, the Steelers had numerous injuries in the trenches and were missing Ryan Clark because of a health condition, so it's fair to let their defensive woes slide for the day.

Finally, as miraculous as Roethlisberger's play was in the second half, leading the Steelers to a comeback on one leg (literally), it might've been smarter for Mike Tomlin to pound his fist on the table and use his authority as head coach to start Charlie Batch the last three weeks. 

Batch is a veteran quarterback with plenty of experience. It's not like they would've automatically lost to the Rams and Browns if Batch was the starting quarterback in those games.

Roethlisberger's valiant performance, which, by the way, was more miraculous than anything Tebow has done this season, could've been elevated to a greater extent had he rested the last month in preparation for tonight's game.

That's on the coaching staff. I know Roethlisberger wants to play, but at the end of the day, it's Tomlin's decision whether he plays or not. 

With all of that being said, the Steelers were still in a great position to win, but they squandered it away because of a gaffe by the coaching staff. How many times have we seen a team get into field goal range late in a game and then have their quarterback get sacked right before the field goal to take them out of field goal range this season?

Tomlin may be a Super Bowl coach, but tonight is going to be a night he'd love to forget as soon as possible.


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