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EdjSports: Mike Tomlin Cost Steelers Time, Chance of Winning with Timeout Strategy



Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin cost his team well over a minute and hurt its chances of winning the game overall by not taking his timeouts on defense in the first half of what became a 19-13 Pittsburgh win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, according to analysis by EdjSports.

The Titans were driving deep into Pittsburgh territory with the clock rolling under three minutes and both teams with three timeouts.

The Steelers got a stop on a Tennessee third down when Tomlin finally called his first timeout with 21 seconds left. The Steelers got the ball back after a Titans field goal with 12 seconds left. 

Ben Roethlisberger was able to direct the Steelers down the field, but Chris Boswell’s last-second 56-yard field goal attempt fell just short.

How much more time could Tomlin have given his offense?

According to analysis by EdjSports, if Tomlin had called his first timeout after the Titans’ second-down play, Roethlisberger would have had 54 seconds to work with. If he had called it after the Tennessee play to get it to first and goal at 1:53, the Pittsburgh offense would have had 1:29 to work with, assuming the play sequence remained identical.

How much would that extra time have helped the Steelers? According to EdjSports’ proprietary game-winning chance model, the Steelers had an 18.6% chance of winning the game when the offense took over after the field goal.

If Tomlin had called his timeouts one play earlier, that would have risen to 20.1%. Two play earlier, and it would have been 21.5%. So According to their analysis, Tomlin’s timeout strategy made the Steelers nearly 3% less likely to win the game overall.

Tomlin defended his decision not to take the timeouts earlier, saying that he was focused on getting a defensive stop, and wanted the Titans to have to deal with a running clock while making their decisions.

“We can get excited about subsequent drives, but you’ve got to get the stop first,” Tomlin said. “And I didn’t take that for granted.”

The Titans had three timeouts at their disposal, but chose not to use them, instead letting the clock run down as far as possible before calling their final plays, correctly assessing that more time left on the clock at the end of the drive would only aid Pittsburgh.

Tomlin is routinely singled out as one of the worst coaches in the NFL when it comes to game-winning chance added by decision making, according to Edj Sports’ research.

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