PITTSBURGH — After Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made the curious decision to punt instead of attempting a 57-yard field goal while trailing the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, some began to wonder if star kicker Chris Boswell was dealing with some type of injury.
Tomlin clarified on Monday that Boswell was not dealing with any kind of ailment at the time, and that he was trying to protect his banged-up defense by not putting them in a short-field situation. If Boswell had missed the 57-yard attempt, the Colts would have started at their own 47.
Tomlin said he was also frustrated by the sequence that led to the fourth-down, as the Steelers were well within field goal range before taking a holding penalty and then Mitch Trubisky forced the ball down field and out of bounds instead of getting some yards to help with the field position.
“You know, on the play before I wanted to be aggressive and take a shot down the field, and that wasn’t afforded to us,” Tomlin said. “And so, then I wanted to check the ball down, we didn’t. We threw the ball out of bounds, and we didn’t improve our field goal positioning.
“We were looking at a 56, 57-yard field goal with our defense leaking the way that it was leaking. I wanted to maintain a posture where we protected them, as opposed to potentially put them in harms way. If you miss a long field goal, the defense is working on a short field. And I just didn’t feel like we were positioned to expose them in that way.
“Under normal circumstances you guys know routinely, we don’t mind challenging our defense and putting them in challenging circumstances, but given the attrition that had transpired, particularly at the safety position, and some things that had transpired right there at the beginning, excuse me at the end of the first half. I thought it was more prudent given the amount of time left in play, to try to work them on the long field and protect the defense.”
Of course, that didn’t work either. Punter Pressley Harvin III popped up his kick, netting just 22 yards and setting the Colts up at their 17. Tomlin said he’d hoped to pin them inside the 5-yard line with his decision.
“A significant component of that strategic failure is the punt as much as anything else,” he said. “If you’re trying to put people on the long field, man, we’re talking about 95-plus yards is what we’re looking for under ideal circumstances. And I think they ended up with the ball roughly around the 17. That’s not what we were looking for.”
Then the defense allowed a back-breaking 15-play, 70-yard drive for a 31-yard field goal to go up two full touchdowns. The Steelers never seriously threatened to score again.
In a game full of sloppy sequences, that might’ve been the worst sequence. Boswell being injured certainly would’ve been a better explanation than the one Tomlin gave.