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.”
Alex Highsmith Needs MRI after Ankle Injury Suffered vs. Browns
PITTSBURGH — Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith suffered an ankle injury that will require an MRI in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Highsmith left the game in the first half and was seen limping on the Pittsburgh sideline. He made an attempt to return to the game, but was unable to continue playing and did not see the field at all in the second half.
In-game, the Steelers announced that Highsmith was doubtful to return with an ankle injury. After the fact, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Highsmith suffered a high ankle sprain. Highsmith’s father posted on Twitter early on Monday morning that Highsmith will require an MRI on his injured ankle.
Not the way we wanted the season to end but I am thankful to have been a part of this amazing ride! The Highsmith Family is proud to wear the Black & Gold and we look forward to more success in the future! Please pray for Alex as he gets an MRI tomorrow on his ankle! #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/JJA4PpZpvx
— Sam Highsmith (@SHighsmithClan) January 11, 2021
Given that Highsmith was able to walk and even run in short bursts after the injury, it does not seem likely that it will impact his offseason training plans.
The team’s third-round draft pick out of Charlotte, Highsmith was thrust into a starting role after starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree suffered an ACL injury that required surgery.
On the season, Highsmith played in 16 regular season game and made five starts. He finished with 48 tackles, five for a loss, six quarterback hits, one interception and one pass defended.
With Dupree set to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return, Highsmith should be expected to retain his starting role in 2021.
Mike Tomlin Doesn’t Regret Punt, Will Talk to Ben Roethlisberger About Future
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin answers questions from the media following his team’s shocking defeat at the hands of the Browns in the playoffs. Tomlin explained why he decided to punt on a 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter while trailing by multiple scores. He also touched on the timeline for when he will talk to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about his future with the team.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Says He Doesn’t Regret ‘Browns Is the Browns’ Comment
PITTSBURGH — It was repeated so often in the five days between when JuJu Smith-Schuster said the phrase on Wednesday to Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field, that it nearly became the No. 1 talking point coming into the game.
“The Browns is the Browns.” Before the game, after the game and probably during the game, many of the Browns made it clear that they had taken exception to Smith-Schuster’s characterization of the team.
The Browns IS THE BROWNS!! 🌚
— Jedrick Wills Jr.®️++💕 (@JWills73) January 11, 2021
Smith-Schuster said after the game that he had no regrets about what he said.
“You know, I don’t regret what I said,” Smith-Schuster said. “I said, ‘The Browns is the Browns.’ They came out and they played a hell of a game. You know, there’s been games where we feel we lose them and today wasn’t our night and hopefully the same Browns will show up next week against the same opponent and go out and do the same thing they did tonight and have a hell of a game.”