PITTSBURGH — With the game hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter in what became a 23-17 loss to Washington on Monday night, Steelers head coach did not feel comfortable sending first-year kicker Matthew Wright out to try a go-ahead, 45-yard field goal.
The game was even with just under five minutes to play, when Tomlin could have turned to Wright, who was playing his first NFL game in place of injured starter Chris Boswell, to break a 17-17 tie.
The kick would have been just a yard shy of the longest kick Wright made a senior at UCF in 2018. He spent the 2019 offseason and training camp with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent, but was released before the season and had not been playing before getting added to the practice squad just last week.
Instead, Tomlin decided against putting that pressure, at that range, on the inexperienced Wright.
“I didn’t feel good about putting that on him,” Tomlin said. “I appreciate his efforts tonight. He was above the line, gave us what we desired. It was my decision to not put him in those circumstances late in the football game.”
Instead, the Steelers went for it on 4th and 1, with Roethlisberger attempting a pass down the sideline on a double move to rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr. The pass was behind McFarland, hit him in the hand and fell to the turf.
“It a good play,” Roethlisberger said. “I think the thing that hurt us the most was they were running the guy out there late to cover him. Sometimes, you want the guy to be set to see what’s going on. I have to deliver a better throw. [McFarland] ran a great route, gave us the chance. It’s on me to deliver the throw.”
The play wasn’t the only short-yardage SNAFU the Steelers had on Monday. They also failed on five consecutive attempts from inside the Washington 1-yard line in the second quarter and had thrown incomplete on 3rd and 1 to set up Tomlin’s big decision.
“Possession-down ball was heavy in this football game,” Tomlin said. “We paid the consequences of it; failure in it. Such is life in our game.”