Mike Tomlin had “seen enough.”
After the Steelers’ special teams were dominated thoroughly by the Dallas Cowboys throughout Sunday’s game, Tomlin didn’t give his specialists one more chance to right the ship with the game on the line.
The Steelers were facing a 4th and 1 at the Dallas 14 with a five-point lead and less than a minute on the clock. A field goal would have put Pittsburgh up eight and given the Dallas the ball back, but a first down would have guaranteed victory.
Tomlin went for the win, but James Conner was stuffed, forcing another late stand from the Pittsburgh defense, and Minkah Fitzpatrick bailed the team out with another game-ending pass breakup to secure a 24-19 win.
Tomlin said after the game that his decision was influenced by Dallas’ special teams dominance throughout the game and the Steelers’ own failures. The Cowboys had sprung two long returns, blocked one kick and nearly blocked another. The Steelers had missed an extra point and even the special teams highlight of the night — Chris Boswell’s record-setting 59-yard field goal — was preceded by a penalty on the field goal unit.
“We have struggled so much with our field goal group early in the game, I just didn’t feel good about it,” Tomlin said. “They were beating us to the punch, pretty much, for the better part of the day on special teams. We missed the extra point. They blocked the kick. We skied a kick trying to pin them down in their territory and they flipped the field with a big kickoff return. I had just seen enough of their dominance in teams. I’ve got a great deal of confidence in our short-yardage abilities. Obviously, it didn’t work out for us.”
In particular, Dallas defensive end Tyrone Crawford was a thorn for Pittsburgh. Lining up just to the right of long snapper Kam Canaday, Crawford was able to leap through the A gap and block one kick and nearly had another. If Tomlin had elected to kick late and Crawford had blocked it, the potential existed for a Dallas splash play.
Tomlin said that this week will provide a more thorough opportunity for the special teams unit and the field goal block group in particular to work through the issues at hand instead of attempting to effect a quick fix on the sideline mid-game.
“We were just getting hit in the teeth,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got to combat that.”
Mike Tomlin’s ‘MAC Guys’ Get the Last Laugh
In discussing his team’s Week 11 game with the under-performing Jacksonville Jaguars, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin chose to use a college football comparison.
“We’re not a Big 10 team playing a MAC team,” Tomlin said last week. “Every time we step into a stadium, we are playing professionals, players and coaches.”
The message was a clear one to not overlook the moribund Jaguars. That mission was accomplished, as the Steelers coasted to a 27-3 victory in Jacksonville on Sunday.
But he may want to pick a different doormat for his analogy the next time. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a MAC alum from Miami University, said he was going to make a response as soon he figured out which conference William & Mary — Tomlin’s alma mater — plays in.
Roethlisberger is far from the only MAC alum on the Steelers. Star wide receiver Diontae Johnson went to Toledo, as did backup linebackers Ola Adeniyi and Jayrone Elliott. Right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and inside linebacker Robert Spillane are West Michigan grads. Injured linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III went to Akron and practice squad wide receiver Anthony Johnson is a Buffalo alum, giving the Steelers eight former MAC members.
And those guys came up big in the win. Roethlisberger threw for two touchdowns, Johnson had over 100 yards receiving, Okorafor was part of a line that helped James Conner to 6.8 yards per carry and kept Roethlisberger from being sacked and Spillane had four tackles.
After Sunday’s win, some of the Steelers’ MAC graduates got the last laugh, with Roethlisberger, Adeniyi, Johnson, Okorafor and Spillane getting Tomlin to pose with a photo.
“MAC guys” captioned Robert Spillane on Instagram, with laughing emojis.
Maybe next time, Tomlin should pick on the Sun Belt.
From the Steelers Locker Room: Minkah Fitzpatrick on Being Focused Each Week, Not Looking Ahead
Minkah Fitzpatrick made it clear to the media, including Steelers Now, that his team made sure to not overlook the Jaguars and is only focused on each individual week, not the possibility of going 16-0.
Mike Tomlin Downplays JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Injury
Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a minor ailment in the Steelers’ 27-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed after the game.
Tomlin characterized Smith-Schuster’s injury as part of the “minor bumps and bruises associated with play.” Smith-Schuster left the game in the fourth quarter with the Steelers leading by multiple scores.
Tomlin said that he didn’t think the injury was anything major, but acknowledge that “it could be a factor for him” when dealing with a short week of preparation upcoming. The Steelers are set to host the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night.
Smith-Schuster caught four passes for 19 yards in the game before he left with the injury. Ray-Ray McCloud replaced him in the top group of receivers.