The Steelers have put out some maddening decisions on fourth-downs over the past few seasons, most recently and notably a questionable decision to punt while trailing by 12 points in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs this January.
This is a trend that Mike Tomlin has. However, it is not that he is overly conservative. At times, Tomlin will waver and got hyper-aggressive. In other words, it really does depend on his confidence and the circumstance for Tomlin. There is no constant for him with the fourth-down decisions he makes.
Tomlin spoke with the media on Tuesday and was asked about teams such as the Los Angeles Chargers, who are going for it on fourth down more than ever. In addition, he dove into his process and how analytics factors into the Steelers’ in-game decision-making when it comes to going for it or not.
“Analytics is a tool, but it’s not the tool because all circumstances are different,” Tomlin said. “There’s an uptick in fourth-down attempts in the National Football League because there’s probably more quarterback mobility than ever before in the National Football League. What analytics may tell us as it pertains to that might speak to that quarterback mobility, but that’s not a component of play for us, and so we don’t make decisions exclusively based on analytics. It’s simply a tool. We acknowledge that more people are going for it than ever before. Quarterback mobility has a lot to do with it. But obviously, that’s not how we’re built.”
That clearly means that Tomlin really goes off of his gut or overall feel at that point. The Steelers are not a team that is actively resistant to analytics, as they have an active staff that does serve some useful roles in the season. They likely also feed Tomlin some type of numbers from the booth as it relates to these situations. However, they are ultimately not the supreme guide like they are for other teams.